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Is China interfering Burma's Internal Affairs?

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Zin Linn
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Burma's key opposition party, the National League for Democracy led by the detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has been officially dissolved for failing to register on time to compete in the in November 7 general election, according to junta's television reports on 14 September.

People noticed that this dissolution order was issued by junta's boss after he arrived back from a five-day official visit to China. The Burmese ruling military leader paid glowing tribute to China on September 12. During a five-day official visit, Beijing granted reassurance that it will not support any group that performs anti-government activities along their common border. Also the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Than Shwe and Hu Jintao had particularly thrashed out the forthcoming elections of Myanmar.

The Junta's Union Election Commission (UEC) issued Notification No. 97/2010 dated 14 September in which five political parties have become null and void according to the law as they did not apply for continued existence as political parties within the prescribed days.

Five parties which no longer have the right for continued existence as political parties are (a) Union Pa-O National Organization, (b) Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, (c) Shan State Kokang Democratic Party, (d) "Wa" National Development Party and (e) National League for Democracy.

The above five parties, including the NLD, were abolished by the current UEC for failing to re-register for continuation as political parties within the set days. However, the UEC has no authority to do this as their existence as political parties was made official by the 1990 election commission, said NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

In March, the NLD leaders filed a lawsuit against military chief Senior General Than Shwe at the country's supreme court stating the regime's election laws are unjust and biased. But the court refused to hear the case, saying it had no power over the issue. The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990, but the junta never allowed it to take office.

In May this year, the NLD refused to register for elections and announced that the proposed elections are not free and fair.

The junta-sponsored November 7 elections will be held for 330 civilian seats in the 440-member House of Representatives. Under the 2008 Constitution and military personnel will be appointed to the remaining 110 seats. In the 224-seat House of Nationalities, 168 will be elected and 56 will be appointed by the chief of the armed forces. Retired generals who get elected are not counted as part of this military's quota. In total, there will be more than 1,150 seats in the national and regional parliaments to be elected by the people.

Moreover, State Television said five more political parties - out of 42 which were initially allowed to register to run in the November 7 poll - were dissolved because they failed to meet requirements on registering candidates. The election has been widely condemned by activists and the West as a charade aimed at putting a civilian face on military rule.

Opposition parties say they have not been able to enter as many candidates as they want because of restrictive election laws and high registration fees. Pro-democracy critics in Burma say the election is a sham, and that the military shows little sign of giving up control.

It was the first time state media announced the NLD's dissolution. However, Burma's pro-democracy opposition party NLD protested against its dissolution by the junta for its refusal to reregister in the upcoming election.

"The UEC has no authoritative power over the parties which did not register with it," the NLD's spokesman Nyan Win told reporters at the party's headquarters.

The NLD also has abided by the 1988 political party registration law, under which it was created. If the NLD breached the said law it would give explanation for its dissolution, he added. No one knows what will happen in the future but NLD will go forward with its course of action, Nyan Win told the media.

The authorities are still checking upon the NLD as a main political party, even though the UEC declared the dissolution of the party. All the NLD senior leaders are under regular scrutiny and closely watched. Despite the ban broadcast, there was no urgent action against the NLD by military authorities, NLD spokesperson said.

On 15 September, local police took position around the NLD H.Q. in Rangoon and started taking photographs of the party members who visited there.

The Union Election Commission said 37 other parties would take part in the election. Campaigning can carry on from September 24 through October 30. Yet, political parties must abstain from making speeches that "tarnish the image" of the armed forces.

Nevertheless, detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has declared that people have the right not to vote, and her National League for Democracy party is boycotting the election.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed "concern" over the Burmese military junta's move to ban 10 political parties in the run-up to the November general election.

The secretary-general once again urges the Burmese authorities to ensure conditions conducive to a fully inclusive and participatory electoral process, Martin Nesirky, a spokesperson for the secretary-general, told reporters at daily press conference at the UN headquarters in New York on 15 September.

But, Ban's stance looks like a vain attempt as the rogue junta has paid no heed to him at all. A ministerial-level meeting of the Group of Friends of Myanmar is expected to be held in New York on Sept. 27 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Details of the meeting are still being worked out, Nesirky said.

Meanwhile, the junta's newspapers cautions that those who are found guilty of obstructing the people from voting face a sentence of one-year imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 kyat ($100).

The UEC has not done anything on electoral education for voters so far. With no election in 20 years, most people have no idea of how the voting process works.

On 7 September, China defended the upcoming elections as Burma's internal affair and urged other countries not to interfere. China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that the international community can provide constructive help to the upcoming election and refrain from making any negative impact on the domestic political process and the regional peace and stability.

It is clearly evident that China is interfering and exploiting Burma's internal affairs. China should support the oppressed people of Burma who live under the military dictatorship, but it helps the tyrannical dictators for its national interests. Burmese people condemn Jiang Yu's call as morally corrupt.

To some analysts, China is weakening due to the diplomatic attempts by ASEAN and the United Nations. Some diplomatic efforts to address Burma's political deadlock and to facilitate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi had been vetoed by China at the UN meetings.

To the people of Burma, China is not only a great blockage to their freedom but also a neo-colonialist under a friendship mask.
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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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