- UN Chief to Burma: Create conditions
for free & fair elections
- Party literature cannot criticize
- NLD between a rock and a hard place
- Divided opinion on NLD party
- Junta prepares to take on the ethnic
- 15 more parties to register
- Burmese Army wraps up first phase of
militia training in Kachin State
- A lack of independence, impartiality
- Suu Kyi ‘opposes election role for
- Opposition to sue Myanmar junta over
- Worries spread regarding NLD split
- Political parties begin to register
- New Mon Party to join election
- Tata Motors to build heavy truck
plant in Myanmar
- Asean should take a stand on Burma
- Burma’s long, hard road to democracy
- China comes to junta’s rescue again
UN Chief to Burma: Create
conditions for free & fair elections – Margaret Besheer
Voice of America: Thu 25 Mar 2010
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the government of Burma must
create conditions that give all stakeholders the opportunity to
participate freely in elections, if the vote is to be viewed as fair
and credible.Mr. Ban spoke to reporters after a meeting of his
so-called Group of Friends of Myanmar, the other name by which Burma is
He said the 15 governments which make up the group discussed
developments following the military government’s announcement earlier
this month of the new election law.
The law has raised international concerns because one of its provisions
prohibits anyone serving a prison term from voting or being a member of
a political party.
That would effectively ban National League for Democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners from participating in the
No date has been set for the vote, which would be the country’s first
in 20 years.
Mr. Ban said the electoral law and the overall electoral environment so
far fall short of what is needed for an inclusive political process.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends, Mr. Ban said they urged the
elections be inclusive, participatory and transparent.
“We encourage all parties to work in the national interest,” Mr. Ban
said. “The government must create conditions that give all stakeholders
the opportunity to participate freely in elections. This includes the
release of all political prisoners – including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi –
and respect for fundamental freedoms.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for 14 of the last 20
years, has said she is opposed to her party registering for the vote,
but that the NLD (National League for Democracy) must decide for itself
whether to participate in the election.
Mr. Ban said if that is her genuine belief, then “we have to respect
it.” But he expressed some reservations, saying he did not know the
circumstances surrounding her statement.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council had its first briefing on Burma
in more than six months. British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said many
council members expressed their concern about the electoral laws, which
he said appeared to target Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition party.
Party literature cannot
criticize military: Junta
Mizzima News: Thu 25 Mar 2010
The Burmese military junta, which has rolled out harsh electoral laws
for political parties, making it difficult for many to contest, has now
come up with rules for political parties while printing their
pamphlets, books or election-related printed matter.Elections have been
declared for this year but no date has been announced yet.
The announcement on party literature on March 17, says parties have to
register for printing election-related matter with the government under
the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act.
For permission to print, the political party needs to seek permission
from the country’s notorious Press Scrutiny and Registration Board
(PSRB) within 90 days after they register with the Election Commission.
The party literature cannot criticize the military and the present
regime, the announcement says. The printed material cannot disturb “law
and order and tranquility” of the nation, it added.
Moreover, a political party has to deposit 500,000 Kyat (USD 500) for
permission to print. The amount will be fully or partially forfeited by
the PSRB if a party violates the stringent rules announced.
The 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act prohibits
publications or materials that go against the interests of the
government. The penalties for violators of this Act range from the
banning of an article to seven years in jail.
NLD between a rock and a hard
place – Aung Naing Oo
Irrawaddy: Thu 25 Mar 2010
Once again, the unmatched power and influence Aung San Suu Kyi,
detained leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), holds over
her party may have shown their genuine impact—this time on the NLD’s
approach toward the planned general election.The NLD’s central
committee is due to meet on March 29 to decide whether or not to
contest the election, but Suu Kyi made her own views on the issue
crystal clear on Tuesday, saying the party should not register under
the recently promulgated election laws.
On March 20 (Decision Time Approaches for NLD), I wrote in The
Irrawaddy: “If her (Suu Kyi’s) preference [whether or not to contest
the election] is made known to the central committee members before the
voting, it may sway them towards the direction she chooses.”
The day before Suu Kyi made her position known, NLD Spokesman Khin
Maung Swe announced that the party’s central executive committee had
agreed that the central committee should leave the final decision to
Suu Kyi and party Chairman Aung Shwe.
Despite the weight of Suu Kyi’s rejection of participation under
current conditions, party Chairman Aung Shwe is known to be in favor of
the party entering the election. But for now the party’s decision seems
to be skewed towards not contesting.
Three possible scenarios remain open for the party, although all bring
problems and likely divisions. Although the choice appears to be
straightforward—a simple “yes” or “no” to participation in the
election—it is an extremely complex matter.
Scenario-1: The NLD decides not to contest the election
This is the most likely scenario now. In this case, the regime-drafted
election laws require the party to disband.
Pragmatists or moderate factions are then likely to form a political
party or two of their own and contest the election under a new banner.
The formal abolition of the party will create radicalism among those
who remain loyal to it. Undoubtedly, the disbanded NLD will become an
underground grouping and find a way to get back into the political
Operating outside the legal and constitutional framework, it is likely
to join forces with other opposition groups, both inside and outside
the country, to discredit the military. Such action will lead to a
head-on confrontation with the Burmese junta and its loyalists,
especially following a decision evidently influenced by Suu Kyi’s
preference not to contest.
The NLD is not an underground organization, however, and its strength
is not in mass mobilization. So the party may find itself in uncharted
territory with aims that may be elusive if not entirely
unrealized—unless it can persuade the Burmese to take to the streets
and force the junta to renegotiate the terms of the Constitution.
If it cannot find political rhythm in underground movement the party is
likely to eventually collapse under relentless pressure from the junta,
which will surely mount a harsh repressive campaign against the party
In addition, 20 years of struggle have shown that a mass anti-regime
movement cannot succeed without at least the tacit support of some key
elements within the military.
Most importantly, the promulgation of unjust election laws was clearly
designed with the purpose of forcing the NLD to opt out of the election
on its own volition.
All in all, this scenario will play into the trap junta leader Snr-Gen
Than Shwe has set up for the party. Besides, it may not provide the
party with a strategy designed for all members with different views to
follow. And unlike the Burmese junta, the NLD has not thrived in
conflict, which would be prolonged if the party failed to contest the
Scenario-2: NLD decides to participate, in the interest of
This possibility seems a long shot now. Ostensibly the NLD would have
less than 60 days from its registration to complete the task of
nominating its election candidates.
The NLD’s strategy in the past 20 years has been to focus on its
survival as a legal entity. If this remains its primary preoccupation,
the party may try to adopt a step-by-step strategy. A first step would
be to register so as to maintain the party’s legality. It would then
continue debating the broader strategy, giving it some breathing space.
If it wants to focus only on its legal survival, the party has two
options. The first is to field only three candidates in the election,
meeting the minimum requirement for any registered party—a half-boiled
strategy. But the law also requires a party, at the time of
registration, to inform the Election Commission (EC) early on whether
it intends to contest throughout the country or just in one specific
area, such as a state or region.
Once it declares its intentions to the EC and says that it will only
contest in three constituencies, the party cannot change its mind. But
the catch here is that if the party loses in these constituencies, it
will likely face the axe and be abolished. To avoid this danger, the
party would have to field and win in more than three constituencies in
order to make sure that it remains legal in the post election period.
The second option, if the party is concerned only about its survival,
is to get registered and prepared, and to make the decision before the
end of the party registration period. This is also not without problems
because voters may punish an undecided party. There is also a
possibility that the EC, under the direct orders from the regime, might
squash party registration at the last minute, citing irregularities in
the registration process.
In this case, hard liners within the party will be proven right and the
party may go back to the same confrontation mode similar to the first
“not to contest scenario.” Under this scenario, emotion will run even
higher and a sudden confrontation with the junta is likely.
In this scenario, taking a decision to “half participate” may seem a
viable option for a short period of time, but in the long run the NLD
would be losing an opportunity to take a decisive party stand on the
issues at hand. And, unlike in 1990, the party does not have the luxury
of time to prepare for the election, and leaving the final decision to
the last minute may not be a good tactic.
Such a strategy could also make the voters believe that even though the
NLD is a party of national calibre, the party only works for its
survival and fails to put the interests of the voters and the nation
Scenario-3: The NLD decides to contest the election
In this case, the party will have to disown its detained leader Suu Kyi
and all other party officials and members currently serving time in
prison. The party expelled Suu Kyi and Tin Oo in 1989 under pressure
from the junta, so taking a similar step this time should not be
problem because she could be reinstated after her release from house
However, even if party Chairman Aung Shwe decides to enter the election
it will upset the hard liners within the party. As a result, the
divisions within the party will come to the fore.
Some disillusioned members might then resign although they would not
become idle. They might be radicalised because of their belief that the
party had abandoned its principled approach to democracy of the past 20
years and especially against the wishes of Suu Kyi.
Such a situation would create an acrimonious relationship among former
comrades, and lead to the two camps undermining each other in the fight
Under this scenario, contesting the election seems to be a good
strategy for the long run. But there is a risk that it does not provide
enough options for all with different takes on the election.
If the NLD does not know how to deal with those members who disagree
with the party’s decision to contest the election and takes drastic
actions, the resentful hard liners may undermine any meaningful work
the party will embark on after the election.
Ideally and acting according to the principles of democracy, the
minority party officials who lose to the majority in favor of
participating in the election should go along with the decision.
However, under the conditions where stakes are high and injustice
glaringly apparent, and especially when the minority realizes that they
are confronted with only one choice, making a rational choice or
cooperating with the majority is unlikely.
In summing up, the NLD is caught between a rock and a hard place, with
problems, dissatisfaction and disappointment present on whatever path
it chooses. And whatever the choice, the party is likely to be deeply
Yet somehow, the party must develop an all-inclusive strategy, allowing
the engagement of moderates as well as hard liners to engage.
Otherwise, the risk is that the NLD will follow the examples of its
predecessors, such as the acrimonious split of the parliamentary-era
Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League, which partly paved the way for the
final and long-lasting entry of the Burmese military into the political
Divided opinion on NLD party
registration – Ba Kaung
Irrawaddy: Thu 25 Mar 2010
On March 29, more than 100 National League for Democracy (NLD) party
leaders from across the country will meet at the party’s Rangoon
headquarters to discuss whether to register the party under the junta’s
election law. Though Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly said she is against
her party registering, the party leadership remains divided. Longtime
Suu Kyi supporter Win Tin, 80, who was released in September 2008 after
more than 19 years in prison said he would probably retire if the
majority decide to register. Khin Maung Swe, 67, a leading party
official who spent 14 years in prison supports registration and joining
the election even though this means the party must expel Suu Kyi under
the junta law. Both spoke to The Irrawaddy on the party’s future.
Question: Could you give us three specific reasons why
you are for or against party-registration?
Answer: If we register the party, we have to expel Daw
Suu and other detained party leaders. The details of the party
registration laws are not clear about whether Daw Suu could rejoin the
party after her release and it would be up to the election commission.
The second reason is that if we register the party we have to vow to
protect the junta’s Constitution, which we have repeatedly said is
unacceptable. The third factor is that after registration, we will have
to police the “illegal” activities of party members and warn them they
will be expelled if they continue those activities. This will guarantee
that no one in the party will dare express his ideas at the risk of
Q. What will happen to the NLD if it decides to contest
the elections? And what if not?
A: If the NLD decides not to contest the elections, two
things can happen. Either the NLD will cease to be a valid and
registered party or the regime will outlaw the party, causing it to
lose its identity and party flag. The dignity of the party will
increase immensely when we show we are not giving in to the junta’s
unjust law. We will also have a broader space to operate with the
public because we will show that the principles the party stands for
are more important than its mere existence.
Q. Can the NLD expect to gain another landslide victory
like it did 20 years ago if it decides to contest the election?
A: The 1988 uprising led by students was one of the main
causes which gave the NLD a landslide victory in the 1990 elections.
Party leaders like U Aung Shwe only got onto the political stage
because of the 1988 uprising. In addition, the military was politically
quite weak at the time. The situation is totally different now: we are
tied up by various laws and if the party contests the election, there
is little or no chance for us to win a majority of seats, much less an
Q. How do you foresee the post-election scenario in Burma?
A: This election ensures that two major groups will
operate in parliament at different levels: one will be composed of
military officers and the other members of multiple political parties
made up from business cronies like Tay Za backed by junta groups such
as the Union Solidarity and Development Association [USDA] and Swan Arr
Shin [a government-organized paramilitary group that suppresses
political dissidents]. Besides, the three candidates for the Presidency
election will be nominated by the military representatives of the
bicameral parliament, but we don’t know the procedure for their
election [The presidency electoral law will be drawn up later,
according to the constitution.] Moreover, the formation of the
government will be in the hands of the future President who can appoint
either members of parliament or non-elected persons as cabinet
ministers. If the president selects members of parliament from a
political party, they can’t represent their party in the government
because they not only have to resign their parliamentary seats but they
also have to refrain from party activities.
Khin Maung Swe
Question: Could you give us three specific reasons why you
are for or against party-registration?
Answer: First, I wish to make it clear that we have no
intention of marginalizing Aung San Suu Kyi, who is an icon in Burmese
politics. But the reason we wish to register the party is because we
want Daw Suu to be able to continue to play in the political
environment when she is released five or six months later. That’s why
we need a political party. Secondly, we believe that only by struggling
in the legal fold will it be possible for us to fulfill our pledge to
democracy, to work for changes in the constitution and national
reconciliation. Thirdly, in that process, we don’t wish to divide our
party members into different groups in contradiction to the party
policy of maintaining unity. As there is no viable exit option [if NLD
does not register], we don’t support not registering the party because
we don’t want to be the historical culprits blamed for letting the
Q. What will happen to the NLD if it decides to contest
the elections? And what if not?
A: If the party participates in the election, it can
become a competitive force in the future parliament, contributing to a
check-and-balance system in politics that will be in the interests of
people. Without political opposition, we will only be left with a sort
of one-party political system. If we don’t join the election, the
people will lose a great party born of the 1988 uprising and faithful
to the struggle for democracy, and the people will not have a party to
vote for in the election.
Q. Can the NLD expect to gain another landslide victory
like it did 20 years ago if it decides to contest the election?
A: I am not sure about a landslide victory, but the party
still has the potential to become a competitive force in the parliament.
Q. How do you foresee the post-election scenario in Burma?
A: With military supremacy continuing in the post-election
era notwithstanding, the rigid centralization we have today will
disappear. By that, I mean the different governmental departments will
no longer be under the control of a single person. The legislature will
be in a position to change inappropriate laws, including the unjust
election law. The more than 75 majority requirement only applies to
amendments of the Constitution, which is where the 25 percent of seats
reserved for the military will be most significant. But parliament will
still have the power to pass bills addressing human rights abuses and
socio-economic issues in our country.
A Survey of NLD Officials on the 2010 Election
By THE IRRAWADDY
The National League for Democracy now faces a critical choice and must
make a historic decision on whether it will re-register as a political
party and contest the Burmese election or face dissolution. The NLD
will discuss the issue on March 29 in a meeting of the party’s central
committee at its headquarters in Rangoon. The Irrawaddy is now
surveying the opinions of NLD officials at the township level. Click
here to see result.
15 more parties to register –
Kyaw Thein Kha
Irrawaddy: Wed 24 Mar 2010
Fifteen parties have confirmed that they will register for this year’s
election.The parties will join two other political organizations—the
Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (formerly known as the
Union of Myanmar National Political Force) and the 88 Generation
Student Youths (Union of Myanmar)—that registered on Monday to contest
Four of the parties planning to register previously belonged to the
National Political Alliance (NPA), a group consisting of nine small
political parties that was formed after the Burmese junta announced its
election law on March 8.
Under the law, all parties must register by May 7.
Two of the four former NPA members, the Demo NLD and the Reconciliation
Research and Analysis Study Group, will register together as the United
Democratic Party. The new party plans to contest nationwide.
The two other former NPA members will contest the election regionally.
The Nationalist NLD (which, like the Demo NLD, includes former members
of the NLD) will contest in Mandalay Division and the Union of Myanmar
National Force Arakan State will contest in Arakan State.
So far, nine parties have told The Irrawaddy that they will contest
nationwide, while another six parties say they intend to run in their
The following parties have registered or plan to register to contest
the election nationally:
1. Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (registered)
2. 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) (registered)
3. National Unity Party
4. National Political Alliance
5. Union Democratic Alliance
6. Democratic Party
7. Union Solidarity and Development Association (expected to form more
than one party)
8. United Democratic Party
9. Peace and Diversity Party
10. A party formed by Phyo Min Thein (the name of the party hasn’t been
11. A party formed by self-described “Myanmar Bengalis” (the name of
the party hasn’t been announced)
The following parties will contest regionally:
1. Kachin State Progressive Party
2. The Union of Myanmar National Force Arakan State
3. Mon National Democratic Front
4. Karen People’s Party
5. Nationalist NLD
6. Scientific National Politics Party, based in Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin)
The following parties contested in the 1990 election but have not yet
registered for this year’s election:
1. National League for Democracy
2. National Unity Party
3. Shan National League for Democracy
4. Union Pa-o National Organization
5. Shan State Kokang Democratic Party
6. Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organization
7. Lahu National Development Party
8. Union Karen League
9. Kokang Democracy and Unity Party
10. Wa National Development Party
The NLD will decide on whether to register or not on March 29, but the
party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already stated that she is not in
favor of the move. The NUP, which ran as the main junta-backed party
during the 1990 election, said it has decided to contest the election
and will register next week.
Junta prepares to take on the
ethnic militias – Thilo Thielke
Der Spiegel: Wed 24 Mar 2010
After years of relative peace, Burma’s military junta is trying to
break the power of guerilla armies in the drug-infested Golden
Triangle. The ethnic armies may end up posing a greater threat to the
regime than the democracy movement and its icon Aung San Suu Kyi.The
village of Doi Tailaeng, on Burma’s border with Thailand, has been
transformed into a military camp. For hours, columns of uniformed
fighters have been marching through this outpost of the rebellious Shan
people, which feels oppressed by Burma’s majority ethnic group, the
Burman. There are several thousand rebel soldiers in Doi Tailaeng, and
they have just completed their military training. The dust rises under
the boots of the recruits. The Shan national festival is solely a show
The militia fighters repeatedly point their guns at the sky and fire
salvos into the clear mountain air, accompanied by the deafening noise
of drums and fanfares. At the end of the parade, a Buddhist monk
blesses the rebels of the “Shan State Army – South” with holy water.
For years, the Shan State Army (SSA) has been waging a desperate and
costly guerilla war against the Burmese army. The SSA consists of about
10,000 fighters, waging war against the Junta’s vastly larger army of
400,000 soldiers. “We are preparing for new battles,” says Sao Yawd
Serk, 51, the leader of both the Shan State Army and the movement’s
Until now, it has only been the remoteness of this mountainous border
region that has kept his men from being wiped out. Other rebel groups
have also doggedly kept up their struggle against the clique of
generals in the new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, including the Karen
National Liberation Army and a handful of militia organizations
fighting for other ethnic groups.
Most of the country’s other ethnic minorities and their fighters signed
a truce with the government in 1989, in return for being granted
extensive autonomy in their regions. They were also permitted to keep
their weapons and go about their business, which includes growing
opium, producing methamphetamines like Crystal Meth and operating
casinos in the border region near China.
The warlords are running a profitable business in the Golden Triangle,
but the fragile peace has come at a high price. Within the last three
years, the amount of land devoted to growing opium has grown by almost
50 percent, to 31,700 hectares (78,300 acres). Pills produced in Burma
are now flooding the rest of Southeast Asia.
These drug revenues are then used to fund powerful armies. The militia
representing the Wa ethnic group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA),
which formed in 1989 after the collapse of the China-backed Communist
Party of Burma, is estimated at about 25,000 combat-ready troops.
But now the fragile peace is at risk. The junta plans to hold an
election this year and use it to cement its power. Foreign observers
and critics in Burma say the election will be a farce. For example, the
country’s election laws, which the junta has fashioned in its favor,
expressly prohibit Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the election.
The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Winner has been under house arrest
The ethnic minority armies operating in Burma’s border regions could
now prove to be a much bigger threat to the government than Burma’s
icon of freedom, Suu Kyi. The government has given the militias an
ultimatum: Either their fighters allow themselves to be voluntarily
integrated into the regular border troops, thereby partly submitting to
the command of the Burmese army, or the army will disarm the militias
Unequally Matched Adversaries
So far few of the many combat groups have indicated a willingness to
give into the junta’s demands. For most, integration into the border
troops would amount to capitulation. As a result, two unequal sets of
adversaries face off in the largely impenetrable jungle regions of the
northeast, eying each other warily. The junta is apparently serious
about its plans to break up the groups of armed ethnic fighters.
Under the pretense of removing an illegal weapons factory in the region
inhabited by the Kokang people near the Chinese border, the army
attacked its militias in August 2009 and drove about 37,000 Kokang into
neighboring China. Since then, a warlike state has prevailed in this
part of Burma, and it now threatens to expand into a guerilla war
between unequally matched adversaries, a war that could last for years
and that no one can win.
The leader of the SSA, Yawd Serk, is openly preparing his troops for
new battles. From his command post in the mountains, he has a good
overview of the surrounding terrain. The rugged mountains along the
Thai border form a natural and almost impenetrable fortress. Not far
away, trenches permeate the green hills, while the Wa army lurks behind
“Perhaps we will be fighting the government together soon,” Yawd Serk
says hopefully. “We know that the Wa military leaders are itching for a
*Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Burmese Army wraps up first
phase of militia training in Kachin State
Kachin News Group: Wed 24 Mar 2010
With the Border Guard Force issue yet to be resolved and tension
mounting, the first phase of the 11-day militia training in Kachin
State in the north was wrapped up by the Burmese Army after the junta
announced the electoral laws on March 8, said local residents.The
militia training to the first batch called the “1/2010 militia basic
combat battle training” was given by Burmese Army trainers to 80
residents of Tatkone quarter, one of the largest ethnic Kachin quarters
in Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina, local trainees told Kachin News
The training began on March 8, the same day that the junta released the
electoral laws and was concluded on March 19, the trainees said.
All trainees were Kachin men and they were forced to join the Burmese
Army’s basic combat training by local military authorities reluctantly,
During the training period, the civilian trainees were especially
trained in basic combat like soldiers with machine guns, said
The second phase of militia training for local civilians is also
underway in different quarters in Myitkyina, said local residents.
In Puta-O, the remote and landlocked town in northern Kachin State, the
Burmese Army is preparing to give the same basic combat training to
local civilians, said Puta-O residents.
Burmese soldiers trained the “basic combat battle training” to Kachin
civilians in Myitkyina in Kachin State, northern Burma before the
countrywide elections in this year. Photo: Kachin News Group.
In Bhamo late last year, civilians from each quarter and village were
forcibly assembled in the guise of “reserved firefighters” but they
were given basic combat training by Burmese military trainers, said
residents of Bhamo.
Local members of the junta-back Union Solidarity and Development
Association (USDA) in Myitkyina and Bhamo also have to take basic
combat training from the Burmese Army, said members of USDA in the two
In Kachin State, the junta forcibly recruited local civilians in the
name of “reserved firefighters” and they were given basic combat
training since the Buddhist monk-led anti-junta demonstration in 2007,
according to local sources.
People in Kachin State believe that the junta is preparing for an
offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the last
remaining Kachin ceasefire group which has refused to transform its
armed-wing to the junta-proposed Border Guard Force.
A lack of independence,
impartiality – Kay Latt
Irrawaddy: Wed 24 Mar 2010
The election will definitely be held sometime in 2010, but the jury is
still out on how we should look at the election: as opportunity or as a
rigged process.The Burmese regime has now issued five laws related to
the election including Election Commission regulations and Political
Parties Registration laws, which are revisions of the 1990 electoral
law. Already, international bodies and governments around the world
have condemned the laws as short of international standards and lacking
in credibility for a free and fair election.
The governments of the United States, Canada, Britain and even Asean
governments such as the Philippines and Indonesia view the laws with
deep disappointment, saying the election will not be credible.
Why don’t they accept the election laws? First, there’s the issue of
the independence of the Election Commission. Each member of the
commission was handpicked by the junta.
Many people believe the commission will favor the regime in making its
decisions and wielding authority.
The previous election commission which supervised the 1990 election was
formed by the former socialist government before the military coup in
1988. After the military coup, Gen Saw Maung, the coup leader,
appointed election commission members and said the military would not
interfere in its work.
The commission was granted the right to draw up the electoral law
independently. The commission publicly issued a draft law and invited
political parties and the public to comment. The commission then
revised the draft law and submitted it to the junta which issued it on
May 31, 1989, one year before of the date of the election.
The new election law was drafted by the generals unilaterally without
public input. Closely affiliated with the regime, the Election
Commission chairman was a member of the junta’s Constitution drafting
commission, and he also served as a military judge advocate general.
Internationally, an election commission is an organization which has
various duties including collecting voter lists, examining candidate
applications, announcing the list of candidates, conducting polls,
counting and tabulating votes, with additional functions such as
boundary delimitation, voter registration, the registration of
political parties, electoral dispute resolution and civic and voter
Moreover, such commissions can regulate the conduct of political
parties and candidates during the election process.
Among the key responsibilities is the registration of political
parties. The commission may deny the registration of a political party,
such as the National League for Democracy, if the party includes
political prisoners as members or leaders, such as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Through her lawyers, Suu Kyi recently remarked that the law should not
be aimed at one particular person or organization, a charge alleged by
many international groups and governments.
Parties or candidates can also be denied registration if the commission
determines that they owe allegiance to a foreign government, are
subjects of a foreign government or who are entitled to enjoy the
rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government, or a
citizen of a foreign country. Again, the commission’s decision is final.
The commission can also deny registration to a party or candidate that
obtains and uses directly or indirectly financial support, land,
housing, buildings, vehicles or property from government or religious
organizations or organizations of a foreign country.
Chapter (11) of the electoral laws grants the commission the authority
to postpone the election in constituencies on the ground of natural
disaster or security. The commission can also move a polling station to
a safer location.
After the election, the commission is authorized to form a complaint
body, which will hear accusations if a candidate is accused of
violating election laws, and then make an appropriate ruling.
Analysts worry that with such wide-ranging authority and discretionary
power, the Election Commission could directly affect the election’s
outcome in favor of the regime because of the commission members’ lack
of independence and impartiality.
Suu Kyi ‘opposes election role
for her party’
BBC News: Tue 23 Mar 2010
Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi opposes her
party registering for forthcoming elections, her lawyer has said.
Nyan Win said Ms Suu Kyi told him the National League for Democracy
(NLD) should “not even think” of taking part under what she called
Burma’s leaders say they will hold the first polls in two decades this
They recently enacted election laws which prevent key figures –
including Ms Suu Kyi – from taking part.
The laws have been widely criticised. The US called them a setback for
political dialogue in the country.
The NLD is due to meet on 29 March to decide whether to participate in
the polls – for which no date has yet been set.
The NLD won the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take
power. Ms Suu Kyi has spent much of the past two decades in some form
According to Nyan Win, Ms Suu Kyi said that she would allow the NLD to
make its own decision despite her opposition.
“She will never accept registration under unjust laws, but her personal
opinion is not to give orders nor instructions to the NLD,” the lawyer
quoted her as saying.
The laws, published earlier this month, state that parties cannot have
any members with criminal convictions. This rules out many of the NLD’s
top leaders – including Ms Suu Kyi – who have been jailed on political
If the NLD does choose to register for the polls, it must exclude its
The laws also ban members of religious orders and civil servants from
joining political parties. Buddhist monks were the driving forces
behind anti-junta protests in 2007.
Opposition to sue Myanmar junta
over election laws
Associated Press: Tue 23 Mar 2010
Yangon, Myanmar — Myanmar’s highest court Tuesday refused to accept a
lawsuit by Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party seeking to revoke laws
that bar the detained leader and other opposition members from taking
part in the country’s first election in two decades.
Lawyer Kyi Win said the Supreme Court refused to accept the lawsuit,
saying it did not have power to handle such a case.
It was unclear what steps if any the party would next take in its
efforts to quash five election-related laws the ruling military enacted
earlier this month that set out rules for this year’s vote.
One law prohibits anyone convicted of a crime from being a member of a
political party and instructs parties to expel convicted members or
The lawsuit was largely symbolic since Myanmar’s courts invariably
adhere to the junta’s policies, especially on political matters.
The National League for Democracy’s general secretary and one of its
founders, Suu Kyi was convicted last year on charges of violating her
house arrest when an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside
property. She is serving an 18-month term of house arrest and many top
members of her party and ethnic-based parties are in prison. Under the
new laws they would be barred from the vote.
“We are taking the legal step against the electoral laws as they are
unfair and the laws are a violation of human rights, personal rights
and organizational rights,” said Nyan Win, a party spokesman, before
the attempted lodging of the lawsuit against the ruling State Peace and
The polls will be the first since 1990, when Suu Kyi’s party won a
landslide victory. The junta ignored the results of that vote and has
kept the Nobel Peace laureate jailed or under detention for 14 of the
past 20 years.
The junta says the new laws have formally invalidated the results of
the 1990 election because the election law under which those polls were
held was repealed by the new legislation.
The elections are part of the junta’s long-announced “roadmap to
democracy,” which critics deride as a sham designed to cement the
No vote date has been set and the NLD has not decided whether it will
take part. The party will decide Friday whether to officially register,
the first step toward participating in the elections.
The party has also written a letter to junta leader Senior Gen. Than
Shwe asking its leaders be allowed to have a meeting with Suu Kyi to
discuss future policies.
Worries spread regarding NLD
split – Phanida
Mizzima News: Mon 22 Mar 2010
Chiang Mai – Fears are the ranks of the National League for Democracy
(NLD) could fracture following a contentious debate within party
leadership on whether the party should re-register or not. Aung Shwe,
Chairman of the main opposition party, reportedly proposed
re-registration at a March 15th meeting at party headquarters in
Rangoon in order to secure the party’s survival.
However, the debate remains hotly contested as to whether or not
Burma’s primary opposition party should re-register with an eye to
possible participation in the 2010 elections.
“The party could split into two factions owing to discussion on whether
to participate in the election or not. The party should negotiate with
the SPDC [Burmese junta] and within party membership as well. I believe
the leadership can make a correct decision,” said Khin Nyunt Mu,
Secretary of the NLD’s Women’s Affairs Working Group in Pegu Division.
All political parties must register with the election commission within
60 days from March 17th according to the recently
enactednld-office-ygn1 Political Party Registration Law. At present
there are ten political parties remaining from the 1990 general
elections, including the NLD.
The NLD has to date reiterated its intent to stand by its Shwegondaing
Declaration, which calls on the military junta to release all political
prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, a review of the 2008
constitution, recognition of the 1990 general election results and
commencement of a dialogue aimed at national reconciliation.
The Declaration echoes ideas debated and agreed upon by political
prisoners during the course of the 1990s, which outlined perceived
conditions relating to the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu
Khin Maung Swe, a Central Executive Committee member of the NLD, said
the party should re-register, with the envisioned release of Aung San
Suu Kyi providing for a readily available base of leadership.
“While we have not yet made clear a decision on whether to join the
election or not, it is critical for the party to re-register. If we
accept we are united with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there must be a
political party. When she is released she will definitely come to join
us,” argued Khin Maung Swe.
However, sources close to the NLD said there is a division within the
top 20 members of the party’s leadership, with Chairman Aung Shwe, Khin
Maung Swe and Dr. Than Nyein heading a pro-registration faction opposed
by the likes of Win Tin, Nyan Win and Ohn Kyaing.
As the decision appears deadlocked at the Central Executive Committee
level, half of whose members remain incarcerated, the party has called
for a March 29th meeting of the 100 Central Committee members to assist
in deciding the matter.
If the NLD leadership chooses to enter the election, contends Khin Saw
Htay of the NLD’s Women’s Affairs Working Group in Magway Division,
“they would thereby default on their longstanding claim for the results
of the1990 elections to be honored.”
“In the case of making a decision for the party on whether to join in
the new election or not, every Central Committee member must show their
courage. I worry they will vote pro-election since they are in fear of
arrest. If so, I denounce them for the sake of ending the military
dictatorship,” she said.
Today, NLD members from Meik-Hti-Lar Township in Mandalay Division sent
a letter to party headquarters proposing an open voting system in
making the decision.
“A person should openly stand for his or her political position. I call
on them to openly state their position,” remarked Myint Myint Aye, a
party member downgraded to ordinary party member status due to a
violation of party regulations in February of this year.
She faults party leadership for a lack of preparation to the present
Tin Oo, Vice-Chairman of the NLD, himself recently released from house
arrest, has yet to make any public statement regarding party
re-registration. But he has stated he will stand together with Aung San
Suu Kyi no matter her decision.
According to election laws, prisoners are not allowed to stand for
election, let alone be members of political parties. Aung San Suu Kyi
is currently serving an 18-month sentence for purportedly harboring an
American man who gained illegal access to her lakeside compound in May
Political parties begin to
register in Naypyidaw – Ko Htwe
Irrawaddy: Mon 22 Mar 2010
Two political parties—the 88 Generation Students of the Union of
Myanmar (GSUM) and the Union of Myanmar National Political Force
(UMNPF)—were the first to register on Monday to participate in the
planned general election.Representatives of the two parties traveled
from Rangoon to the Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, to register at the
Election Commission office there. The GSUM was the first to hand in its
UMNPF Chairman Aye Lwin told The Irrawaddy on Monday: “Our country lags
behind in comparison to others. I feel we have a chance to solve that
problem in a political way.”
The UMNPF and the GSUM have close associations. Aye Lwin’s younger
brother, Ye Htun, is expected to be named chairman of the GSUM.
The GSUM is distinct from the original 88 Students Generation group led
by prominent former students—including Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi—who
are now in prison.
Aye Lwin, a 46-year-old former political prisoner, started his own
political group in 2005. His close contacts with regime officials (he
had a meeting with Rangoon’s mayor, Maj-Gen Aung Thein Lin, five months
ago) have made him unpopular with young activists, who accuse him of
accepting substantial financial support from them.
Several other parties say they will register before the 60-day deadline
expires. Democratic Party leader Thu Wai said his party’s central
executive had decided on Sunday to send a representative to Naypyidaw
Han Shwe, executive member of the National Unity party, said: “Our
party will also register within the fixed date.”
A number of ethnic groups also say they are preparing to register as
Manam Tu Ja, joint chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization
(KIO), who resigned to form the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP),
said the KSPP would register before the annual Water Festival in April.
Shwe Ohn, a prominent Shan leader said his party, whose name has not
yet been confirmed, also intended to register within the next 10 days.
The newly promulgated election laws require parties to pay a
registration fee of 300,000 kyat ($300) and 500,000 kyat ($500) for
each candidate fielded in the election.
New Mon Party to join election
– Lawi Weng
Irrawaddy: Mon 22 Mar 2010
The Mon will officially announce a new political party on March 31 to
represent the Mon people in the election, according to Mon sources, who
added that the new party was formed last year in Moulmein and has a
name and a written constitution.Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Monday,
Min Soe Lin, a committee member of the new Mon political party and an
executive member of the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), said:
“The new party has a five-member advisory board and a 15-member
committee that includes three Mon Buddhist monks.”
Min Soe Lin was one of five MNDF representatives who won seats when the
party ran in the 1990 election. After the election the junta disbanded
the party and arrested at least four of the elected representatives
including Min Soe Lin, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The new party is ready to register and participate in the election, he
said, but after a meeting on March 15, they decided to delay making an
official announcement until after the main opposition party, the
National League for Democracy (NLD), announces on March 29 whether they
will participate in the election.
“If the NLD doesn’t join the election, four committee members including
myself will not join the new party because we disagree with the 2008
Constitution,” he said, adding that 11 committee members would remain.
The new Mon political party currently comprises some former central
committee members of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), which is the Mon
armed wing that entered a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1995,
the MNDF and other respected community leaders in Mon State.
Two executive members from the MNDF will join the new political party,
according to Mon sources.
Mon leaders are divided on whether to participate in the election,
Those who don’t accept the 2008 Constitution view the election as a
sham and say it will not be free and fair.
Nai Hang Thar, the secretary for the NMSP, told The Irrawaddy on Monday
that the new constitution denies fundamental ethnic rights and will
allow the military to hold onto power.
“The junta are holding an election because their main political goal is
to supersede the 1990 election result that gave the NLD victory and
legalize their military rule,” he said.
Other Mon leaders believe the election could offer an opportunity and
they will continue to fight for Mon freedom in the new Burmese
parliament even after the junta takes 25 percent of the seats.
The NMSP announced last year that it will not participate in the
election. The NMSP leaders believe that they must maintain their armed
wing because Burma is controlled by a military government.
To avoid increasing tensions among its members, however, the NMSP
leaders said they would allow members to resign and join the new Mon
political party if they wished.
Mon leaders believe that letting the NMSP maintain its armed wing to
continue the potential for armed struggle while the new Mon political
party takes the fight to the democratic stage is the right strategy.
Many Mon observers in Mon State, meanwhile, say they do not trust the
junta to hold a free and fair election and they don’t believe the new
Mon political party will gain any freedom for the Mon people.
Sources in Moulmein said the new Mon political party including former
NMSP central committee members are currently working together
mobilizing youths in Mon State for the election in 2010.
Tata Motors to build heavy
truck plant in Myanmar – Nikhil Gulati
Wall Street Journal: Mon 22 Mar 2010
New Delhi –Tata Motors Ltd., India’s biggest auto maker by revenue,
said Monday it has signed a pact with Myanmar Automobile & Diesel
Industries Ltd. to set up a factory for making heavy trucks in the
Southeast Asian country.The factory at Magwe in Myanmar is expected to
be operational during January-March 2011, Tata Motors said.
The factory will have an annual capacity to make 1,000 vehicles and can
be expanded to 5,000 a year, it said.
The company didn’t give any financial details, but said the project
will be funded by a line of credit from the Indian government.
Asean should take a stand on
Burma – Editorial
Bangkok Post: Mon 22 Mar 2010
As the general election in Burma, still scheduled for “sometime this
year”, draws ever closer, it is time for the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (Asean) to seriously consider a review of the grouping’s
famous policy of non-intervention. Especially after the recently
announced election laws. There are few experienced Burma watchers who
hold out much hope that the elections will do much to break the
military junta’s grip on power or bring about a more hopeful situation
for its people.One of the election laws requires that the National
League for Democracy (NLD) expel its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, because
she is serving a suspended sentence under house arrest.
Even more distressing, UN special envoy Tomas Quintana, who visited
Burma last month, told the UN Human Rights Council that the elections
due this year could not be credible, because the ruling State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) had failed to remedy human rights abuses
including the recruitment of child soldiers and the jailing of more
than 2,000 prisoners of conscience.
Mr Quintana has recommended a UN inquiry into whether war crimes and
crimes against humanity are being committed there.
It appears that as the election approaches increased tensions are
developing between the government and a number of ethnic groups.
An Associated Press report on Friday quoted the general secretary of
the Karen National Union (KNU), Zipporah Sein, as saying at a news
conference in Bangkok that the ”risk of armed conflict between powerful
ethnic minority groups and the military regime is at its highest level
in more than two decades as contentious national elections loom on the
horizon”. The KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army,
is Burma’s largest ethnic army, and has for some time engaged in
fighting against Burmese troops, which it says is strictly to protect
Karen civilians. Independent reports from human rights organisations
and the UN confirm that the Burmese army is attacking and deliberately
There are reports that other armed ethnic groups like the Kachin
Independence Army and groups which have signed ceasefire agreements
with the government, such as the Wa State Army and the New Mon State
Party, are also preparing for a possible war.
In these areas the rising tensions are due in large part to a
government plan to transform the armed ceasefire groups into a Border
Guard Force under its control.
While in more normal circumstances this may be a good idea, the history
of mistrust between the government and most of these groups probably
makes this an impossibility under such short notice.
Zipporah Sein, the first woman leader of the KNU, has said: ”The
military is sending troops to the areas of the ceasefire groups and
they are ready to fight if attacked. So the tension is rising between
Individually, many influential people within the region, including some
government leaders, have spoken out against the situation in Burma in
the run-up to the election, but Asean has officially remained silent.
Failure to articulate a principled stand on the Burmese government’s
flagrant disregard for accepted international election standards of
inclusiveness and transparency, and even more importantly, on the many
apparent human rights violations, could seriously hurt Asean’s
credibility in the international community. Moreover, such a failure
amounts to a refusal to make the attempt to restrain the SPDC from one
of the few quarters which may have real influence on the Burmese
This applies also to China, which continually blocks efforts in the UN
Security Council to put pressure on Burma. Most recently this was done
when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown requested an emergency meeting
to discuss the Burmese electoral laws. Also last week, China’s
representative to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said there has
been an improvement in Burma’s human rights performance despite recent
statements like the one coming from Mr Quintana.
It is important for Asean and China to realise that any short-term
gains from placating Burma may be far outweighed by the consequences of
allowing the SPDC to continue in its present course.
Burma’s long, hard road to
democracy – Achara Ashayagachat
Bangkok Post: Mon 22 Mar 2010
Burma might need three or four more elections before it could have a
working democracy, but it has to start with the first election,
according to leading dissidents.But many activists remained
unconvinced, saying the general election is intended only to whitewash
the entrenched military rule.
Harn Yawnghwe, executive director of Brussels-based Euro-Burma Office,
said there was nothing much the outsiders could do – Asean and China
strictly hold on to the non-interference principle while the US seemed
to be obsessed with Afghanistan, Iran and other concerns.
But it did not mean that these countries were not involved.
“Asean will eventually accept the election, no matter what the results
will be, hopefully not blatantly,” said Mr Harn, of Shan ethnic, at
Chulalongkorn University’s public forum Monday on “Myanmar/Burma –
Domestic Developments and International Responses.”
Inside Burma, there also seemed to be very limited options, “Certainly,
the military will not allow people a lot of chances and they will not
bring about democracy, but people inside the country needed to maximize
the chance of having its first election in two decades,” said the
senior Shan dissident.
The election law has already stipulated that if political parties or
politicians boycott this election, the running candidate would
automatically win, no matter what.
“The ethnic groups have to participate in this election, and they are
doing so. Burma might need a few more elections before we could see
some working democracy,” Mr Harn said.
Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese student leader during the 1980s, said the
general election would open room for newcomers, unknown faces of
various minorities in political scenes, and these candidates, although
most of them had military backgrounds, should not be considered in a
“Inside the limited narrow choice of work, many ethnic people
inevitably join the military. But these people are not necessarily
evil. They are not stupid but well-educated—so they should be better
than the blatant military SPDC,” said Mr Naing Oo, who advocated
engagement with the Burmese junta.
He told a strong audience this morning that election would lead to long
term prospect for bottom-up democracy, “This is a step that you must
take, there’s no other way. We might need another 3-4 elections before
we can see some positive light,” said the Chiang Mai-based analyst.
However, Khin Omar, coordinator of Burma Partnership, said the people
inside Burma needed a really inclusive, transparent process that
respects the rights of all peoples of Burma, not the current restricted
“The key mechanism through which the junta has guaranteed its continued
grip on power is the 2008 constitution that cements their authority in
the three branches of government,” said Ms Omar.
While new regional an
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