- Myanmar bars some ethnic leaders
- EC rejects individual Kachin
- More ex-generals to run for USDP
- Top USDP candidates to run in
- ‘Activists’ jail term extended
by 20 years
- Myanmar expands private banks
with military ties
- Elections in Myanmar: It’s all
- The fate of the NLD
- Democratic Party to focus
efforts on lower house
- Army to vote in separate ballot
- Restrictions placed on election
- Make-believe elections
- Torn between two capitals
- Should opposition parties
boycott the elections?
- Activist monks call for election
- UN war crimes probe ‘still just
- Burma’s junta can’t escape from
- Countdown to freedom: Aung San
Suu Kyi must be released on November 13, 2010
- Underground press in Burma
- Burma election Monitors question
- CNPC to ready Myanmar pipelines,
refinery by 2013
- Burma’s FEC in crisis
- Rangoon mayor pushes city staff
to vote USDP
- China assures isolated Myanmar
of its support
Myanmar bars some ethnic
leaders from polls: source
Reuters: Thu 16 Sep 2010
Yangon – Election authorities in army-ruled Myanmar have
rejected the candidacy of a dozen former leaders of a major
ethnic group, sources said on Thursday, raising doubts about
ethnic participation in the upcoming polls.The Union
Election Commission (UEC) gave no explanation as to why the
politicians from Kachin State, which borders China, were
barred from running as independent candidates in the
November 7 ballot for seats in regional and national
The decision, which has yet to be been made public, comes
after pressure by the ruling junta for armed ethnic groups
who have enjoyed decades of de facto autonomy to join the
political process in a bid to unify the nation ahead of the
Three parties were formed to represent Kachin State but all
were rejected upon registration for the polls, meaning the
Kachin, one of the eight major ethnic groups in Myanmar,
will have no representation in the much-criticized election.
A Yangon-based businessmen with close connections to Kachin
politicians said the barring of the candidates was likely in
retaliation for a refusal by the Kachin Independence Army
(KIA) to disarm and join a government-run border patrol
“We’re sure it’s because of the refusal to accept the
regime’s Border Guard Force (BGF) scheme,” said the source,
who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The KIA was founded on 1961 and fought against successive
military regimes for greater autonomy or independence until
a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994.
Like most of the ethnic armies, it has refused to join the
government-run BGF but was willing to take part in the
political process, mainly through the Kachin State
Progressive Party (KSPP), but KSPP’s application was
The move to bar the Kachin politicians raises the likelihood
of a military offensive by the Myanmar army against armed
separatists rejecting the BGF plan, which analysts expect to
take place before a new government is formed.
Reports from ethnic news sources say the army has sent
reinforcements into Shan and Kachin states and analysts say
it is unlikely the junta will agree to any devolution
Adding to fears of conflict, the junta announced on state
television late on Thursday that polls would not take place
in some 200 villages in Kachin, Kayah, Mon, Kayin and Shan
States, which are home to armed ethnic groups.
MRTV said polls had been scrapped “because the situations
there will not be conducive to free and fair elections.”
(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty;
Editing by Sugita Katyal)
EC rejects individual
Kachin candidates – Ko Htwe
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Sep 2010
After previously rejecting the registration application of
the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP), Burma’s Election
Commission (EC) has now rejected the applications of 14
leading KSPP members, including its founder Tu Ja, who
alternatively applied to run as individuals.Speaking to The
Irrawaddy on Thursday, KSPP Secretary Tu Raw, said: “I feel
the refusal is unfair and we have not been given the right
that every citizen should have to compete in the election.
We will now have no opportunity to debate issues on a
political stage like the new parliament.”
“We have a chance for appeal to the Division Sub EC. There
may be one or two candidates who make an appeal, but I
personally will not appeal,” said Tu Raw, who had hoped to
compete for the Pyithu Hluttaw (People’s Parliament) in
Waingmaw Township in Kachin Division.
The KSPP is the most popular political party in Kachin
State, receiving the support of almost all local
organizations and residents, including local authorities,
and so the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development
Party (USDP) attempted to block the KSPP registration, said
“The USDP knows that it is impossible for them to compete
with the KSPP in Kachin State, and so it tried to stop our
party from being registered,” he said. According to one of
the KSPP candidates, the USDP also tried to stop the
fourteen individual candidates from receiving EC approval.
Tu Ja, the former vice-chairman of the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO) who formed the KSPP in March 2009, said
the other reason the EC didn’t approve its registration was
because it believed the KSPP had ties with the KIO.
“The second reason they won’t allow us to register as a
party or as individual candidates is the party’s alleged
ties with the KIO,” he said.
The KIO is an armed cease-fire group. The military junta has
ordered the KIO to transform its troops into a border guard
force, but the KIO has thus far refused.
Section 12(a)(3) of the Political Parties Registration Law
(PPRL) denies registration to any party that is involved
with groups launching armed rebellions or involved with
associations declared to be “unlawful associations.”
Tu Raw said that while the party does not have direct ties
with the KIO, it does recieve support from all influential
organizations in Kachin State.
“We have ethnic ties with the KIO, but not political ties
and not the same agenda. If we don’t get support from that
group, it would make it difficult for our party movement in
the region,” he said.
At present, the only political party running an election
campaign in Kachin State is the Unity Democracy Party of
Kachin State (UDPK), a pro-junta ethnic party allied with
However, the USDP, the Shan Nationals Democratic Party
(SNDP) and the National Unity Party (NUP) have said they
will compete in Kachin State as well.
So far, out of the 42 political parties that have applied,
the EC has allowed 39 parties to register, including ethnic
Karen, Mon, Palaung and Pa-O parties, according to the
state-run The New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
More ex-generals to run
for USDP – Ba Kaung
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Sep 2010
The Burmese military junta’s third-and-fourth ranking
officials, Shwe Mann and Tin Aung Myint Oo, have been
approved by the election commission as candidates for the
junta’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development
Party (USDP).They will run in Zeyar Thiri and Pubba Thiri
townships in Naypyidaw as candidates for seats in the
People’s Parliament, according to the official notification
of approved candidates issued by the commission on Tuesday.
Both are among the second batch of high-ranking military
generals resigning from the army within the last month to
join the USDP; however, they remain members of the ruling
State Peace and Development Council.
The state-controlled media in Burma have not officially
announced their resignations from the military nor have they
confirmed that the ex-generals have joined the USDP, except
that recent state-media reports no longer carry their
military titles, but instead attribute them with the Burmese
honorific title of “ U.”
The notification also states that Prime Minister Thein Sein
and other retired military officials, including Myint
Hlaing, the former chief of air defense, and ex-Maj Gen
Maung Oo who currently remains minister for home affairs,
will also stand for constituencies in Naypyidaw for seats in
the People’s Parliament as USDP candidates.
USDP chairman Thein Sein will run in Zabbu Thiri, one of the
eight townships in Naypyidaw.
Only the USDP and the pro-regime National Unity Party (NUP)
will compete in Naypyidaw. Pro-democracy parties said they
will not run in the new capital because they fear they will
have next to no vote among the town’s military-influenced
Among the approved candidates, ex-Lt Gen Myint Swe, will run
as a USDP candidate in Seikgyikanaungto Township in Rangoon
for a seat in the Nationalities’ Parliament.
The USDP is widely expected to claim an overwhelming victory
in the election in the absence of the main opposition party,
the National League for Democracy (NLD), which was dissolved
by the election commission on Tuesday.
This will pave the way for the former senior military
personnel to be elected as civilian representatives in the
new government, which is in addition to the fact that the
Constitution already guarantees the military a quarter of
the seats in the parliament.
Vice-presidents will also be nominated by a majority of army
and civilian representatives in the parliament, and will
most likely be the elected candidates of the USDP. One of
the three vice-presidents who is required to be “acquainted
with political, administrative, economic and military
affairs” will be selected as president.
The presidency is expected to go to either junta chief
Snr-Gen Than Shwe or Shwe Mann.
Top USDP candidates to run
in Rangoon – Wai Moe
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Sep 2010
Among the senior officials in the Burmese military regime
who are running for office in the Nov. 7 election as members
of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party
(USDP), most have been listed as candidates in the Rangoon
Region, according to the Union Election Commission (EC)
which approved the candidate lists on Tuesday.Speaking on
condition of anonymity, EC officials said Thursday that the
approved USDP candidate list for the Rangoon Region
[previously the Rangoon “Division”] includes former Lt-Gen
Myint Swe, who retired from his military post in August and
will contest in Seikgyi Kha Naung To Township for a seat in
the Rangoon regional parliament, and former Col and current
Rangoon Deputy Mayor Maung Par, who will compete in the same
township for a seat in the the People’s Assembly (Lower
House) of the Union Parliament.
Observers said Myint Swe, the former commander of the
Rangoon Military Regional Command who is reported to be
junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s right hand man, has been
tapped to be the future prime minister of the Rangoon
Former Brig-Gen Aung Thein Lin, the Rangoon city mayor and a
leader of the USDP, is now the party candidate in South
Okkalapa Township for the Lower House. Dr. Paing Soe, the
deputy minister of health who is Than Shwe’s family doctor
and a relative of Than Shwe’s wife, Kyaing Kyaing, is the
party’s Lower House candidate in Sanchaung Township of
Labor Minister and former Maj-Gen Aung Kyi, who is also the
liaison officer between the junta and pro-democracy leader
Aung San Suu Kyi, is the USDP candidate for the Lower House
seat from Mingala Tawn Nyunt Township.
Former Brig-Gen Maung Maung Thein, the minister of livestock
and fisheries, is the USDP candidate for the Lower House in
Kayan Township, and former Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung, the
minister of religious affairs, is the party’s candidate for
the Lower House in Thongwa Township.
Energy Minister and former Brig-Gen Lun Thi is the USDP’s
Lower House candidate in Kungyangon Township, and Soe Tha,
the minister for national planning and economic development,
will contest the Lower House seat in Twante Township.
Minister of Mining and former Brig-Gen Ohn Myint, and Deputy
Minister of Defense and former Maj-Gen Aye Myint, are
reportedly the USDP’s respective Lower House candidates for
Rangoon’s Alone Township and Insein Township.
Former Maj-Gen Nyunt Tin, also the former minister of
agriculture and irrigation, is the USDP candidate for the
National Assembly (Upper House) of the Union Parliament.
Well-known business figures running as USDP candidates in
the coming elections are Khin Swe, a junta crony who has
been on the US sanctions list since Oct. 2007, Tin Tun Oo,
co-publisher of The Myanmar Times Weekly, and authors Myo
Thant Tin and Tin Kha.
Khin Swe will contest for the Upper House in Rangoon
Region’s No. 9 Constituency, and Myo Thant Tin is a
candidate for the Upper House in Rangoon Region’s No. 6
Constituency. Tin Tun Oo is the USDP candidate for the Lower
House in Pazun Taung Township.
Along with ministers and other public figures, USDP
candidates include owners of medium-sized businesses and
respected local figures who the Union Solidarity and
Development Association (UDSA) recruited by force or
attracted with business opportunities during the past five
Shortly after the USDP was formed in April, all assets of
the USDA were transferred to the USDP.
The USDA was infamous for its involvement in the brutal
ambush on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her
convoy in late May 2003 and for the crackdowns on monk
demonstrators throughout the September 2007 protests.
‘Activists’ jail term
extended by 20 years – Khin Hnin Htet
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 16 Sep 2010
Seven people serving lengthy sentences for alleged links to
a banned Burmese activist group have had their prison terms
extended by 20 years, courts ruled yesterday.The seven were
already serving terms of between 20 and 38 years in
Rangoon’s Insein prison after being arrested in 2008 and
accused of holding ties to the All Burma Students’
Democratic Front (ABSDF), a prominent activist group born
from the 1988 mass student uprising.
But additional charges under the Explosives Act were
levelled at Kyaw Zin Oo, Zaw Lwin, Kyawza Lin, Htet Ko Lwin,
Khin Yi, Aye Min Naing and his wife San San Maw. They are
accused of assisting in the 2004 bombing at Zawgyi House
Restaurant in Rangoon and the bombing at the Panorama Hotel
in Rangoon in 2005.
Sentences of ten years for each of the two attacks were
handed down yesterday, and all seven were found guilty.
“We are very unhappy with the sentences. The defendants had
already been given jail terms for the explosive materials
submitted by the prosecutors as evidences in 2008,” said
lawyer Kyaw Ho, speaking of the group’s initial arrest and
separate charges under the Explosives Act, Unlawful
Associations Act and Arms Act in 2008.
He said that no evidence had been provided for the latest
sentencing, adding that “normally in cases under the
Explosive Act, witnesses should be included from the
police’s Criminal Investigation Department and chemical
specialists”, although this had not been the case. Moreover,
the alleged accusation by the person behind the attack that
netted the seven was weak, he added.
The five men and two women are also facing accusations
connecting them to an explosion that took place at Shwe Mann
Thu Bus Terminal in Rangoon in 2005.
In other news, the imprisoned 1990-elected parliamentary
representative in Burma’s western Arakan state, Nyi Pu, is
in poor health. According to a colleague of his who spoke to
Nyi Pu’s wife, he is not receiving healthcare for a
condition that lowers the level of potassium in the blood.
He is being held in Kham Ti in Saganig division.
According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for
Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), there are currently 2,183
activists, lawyers, journalists, monks and politicians
behind bars in Burma.
Myanmar expands private
banks with military ties – Jason Szep
Reuters: Thu 16 Sep 2010
Bangkok – Myanmar is expanding the number of private banks
in the reclusive state ahead of November elections, a step
that looks set to strengthen the hand of businessmen with
close ties to the ruling generals.
The banking expansion follows signs of rising investment in
the resource-rich country from neighbouring China and
growing trade links to Southeast Asia, but economists doubt
more banks in the army-run country will boost its
Instead, the increase in private banks to a total of 19,
from 15 previously, illustrates a trend in which the
military elite and their allies look set to emerge as the
financial powerbrokers of a new era of civilian rule in the
A Finance Ministry official said four businessmen have been
authorised to each open new banks ahead of the Nov. 7
The four are among the closest allies of the ruling generals
and the wealthiest civilians in one of Asia’s most secretive
economies at a time when the top military brass are swapping
fatigues for civilian clothes ahead of the first elections
in two decades and the first civilian government in half a
One of the tycoons, Tay Za of the Htoo Group, has been
identified by the U.S. State Department as an arms dealer.
Another, Zaw Zaw, was hit with U.S. sanctions last year and
a third, Nay Aung, is the son of Myanmar’s Industry
Minister, a powerful figure seen as a protege to supreme
leader General Than Shwe.
The fourth businessman, property developer Chit Khaing, is
also subject to Western sanctions.
“They are symbolic in many ways of all that is wrong with
Burma’s economy — profit through connections, opaque,” said
Sean Turnell, an expert on Myanmar’s economy at Sydney’s
“It is hard to see the new banks as anything much more than
‘cash boxes’ at the heart of the conglomerates that own
them,” he added. “They are playthings to some extent but
also as vehicles to access all manner of concessions,
foreign exchange, and to otherwise manipulate and disguise
money flows,” added Turnell.
Economists generally dismiss banking as a dysfunctional
industry in a country blighted by decades of economic
mismanagement and squeezed by sanctions imposed by Western
nations in response to human rights abuses.
Turnell estimates a mere 15 percent of domestic credit made
its way to the private sector in 2008/09. Over the last five
years, the private sector’s share of credit has fallen by
nearly 25 percent, crippling private enterprise in a country
where 30 percent of the population live in poverty according
to U.N. data.
Hardest hit is the agricultural sector, source of more than
half of Myanmar’s economic output and lifeline to more than
70 percent of the country’s 50 million people. Agriculture
receives just 0.4 percent of credit created, said Turnell.
The vast bulk of credit supports the military regime.
The four businessmen run conglomerates considered top
beneficiaries of a wave of privatisation in which about 300
state assets — from real estate to ports, shipping companies
and an airline — were sold, mostly this year.
Their four banks will be based in the capital Naypyitaw.
“We will do our best to modernise the banking industry. We
will try to offer small loans and introduce online services,
ATMs and so on,” said an official at a new bank who declined
to be identified because she was not authorised to speak to
Dozens of private banks owned by local and foreign companies
operated in Myanmar before sweeping nationalisation in 1964.
Its military rulers introduced a market economy after
seizing power in 1988, allowing private banks in 1992.
(Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Alex
Elections in Myanmar: It’s
all about exclusion – Medha Chaturvedi
Eurasia Review: Thu 16 Sep 2010
The November 2010 elections in Myanmar do not promise to be
fair and inclusive nor do they come with the agenda of
complete restoration of democracy in the country. But, one
thing these elections promise to be is a step towards a
transformation which comes with opportunities for some
important political changes in the future.How significant
are these changes going to be when the present situation
looks grossly unjust? How will the outcome be affected when
the new electoral laws have barred certain citizens
including the most visible supporter of democracy in the
country, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? Are these elections only an
attempt by the military junta-backed State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC), the Union Solidarity and
Development Party (USDP) led by Prime Minister Thein Sein
and the National Unity Party (NUP) to legitimize and further
consolidate their power?
The USDP and NUP have reportedly floated more than 1,100 and
980 candidates respectively, nationwide. A total of 1,163
seats will be contested for national and state parliaments;
this is in addition to the 25 per cent seats reserved for
the military in parliament. However, USDP is aiming to win
an overwhelming 90 per cent seats, to ensure two out of
three vice-presidential candidates from the military.
The elections will be held in accordance to the new
constitution which came into effect after a similarly
non-inclusive referendum in May 2008. It forms the fifth
step of the seven-step “road map to democracy” announced by
the SPDC. Following this, the sixth and seventh steps –
convening of elected representatives and building of a
modern, democratic nation, respectively will supposedly be
pursued. The new Constitution and election laws have
provisions for exclusion of many sections, especially those
against the present regime. People are also questioning the
validity of the junta’s “attempts to restore democracy” in
Myanmar when over 2,100 political prisoners are not being
released and are barred from contesting these elections
under the provisions of the 2008 constitution.
At least two constitutional provisions – anyone with a
criminal conviction or who is married to a person of
different nationality cannot participate in the election
process; exclude Suu Kyi from the electoral process. The
laws also forbid any group which employs and trains armed
forces against the ruling government, from forming a
political party and thus, contesting in the election. Hence,
the majority of ethnic ceasefire groups, while removed from
the list of unlawful organizations, will not be granted the
right to any political process without first converting
their armed forces into a Border Guard Force functioning
under the existing regime.
This may pose some problems as these groups are eventually
likely to prevent polling in territories they control which
will again leave out a large number of people from voting.
The Shan and Karen states seem to be the big casualties of
these stipulations as it is highly unlikely that there will
be any polling there owing to the provision which states
that only conflict-free areas can hold elections.
Members of religious orders are also prohibited from
affiliating themselves to a political party and thus,
contest elections. This implies that the monks who protested
against the government in 2008 cannot take part in the
Then there is Suu Kyi’s party, National League for Democracy
(NLD), which officially boycotted the elections. It is now
conducting “voter education camps” in several constituencies
urging the people to reject the elections by choosing to
refrain from voting as provided in the Election Commission
Law. This is expected to further bring down the number of
people participating in the elections.
While it is evident that the Generals Than Shwe and Maung
Aye, will step down following the elections, their influence
will still be felt quite substantially in the new
government. It is therefore safe to assume that these
elections will see the existing regime back in power, more
dominant than before as it would now have a legal sanction
as the winner of a nationwide election. The international
community may or may not agree with this expected outcome,
but it would have to accept it nevertheless.
However, how does one accept an outcome whose entire
foundation is exclusion? For the present government, anyone
who does not agree with them is not welcome in the system.
The junta-led government has decided that even the slightest
inclination to oppose the regime will result in exclusion
from the elections. Former American President Harry S.
Truman once remarked, “Once a government is committed to the
principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has
only one way to go and that is down the path of increasingly
repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror for
all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives
in fear.” This holds true for Myanmar in the present
context. The credibility of the first Myanmarese elections
in 20 years is at stake, but the junta seems unperturbed.
The Myanmarese people’s long wait for democracy in their
country is far from over.
The fate of the NLD – Kyaw
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Sep 2010
The fact that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for
Democracy was disbanded by Burma’s ruling junta wasn’t
unexpected news. The government’s Election Commission
announcement on Tuesday is just a legal phase of the
annihilation that the regime began plotting years ago.
The NLD registered as a political party on Sept. 27, 1988,
nine days after the military government, then known as the
State Law and Order Restoration Council, staged a bloody
coup following the ‘88 nationwide uprising. This month, 22
years later, the most popular party and the winner of the
1990 election was disbanded. Along with it, nine other
parties, including ethnic parties, were dissolved.
Yes, the party is now illegal. That means, any individual
members of the party will be more vulnerable than before
when it comes to exercising political or social activities.
Thus, the freedom of the party’s leading members such as
Vice Chairman Tin Oo, 83; veteran journalist-turned
politician Win Tin, 81; Suu Kyi’s spokesperson, Nyan Win, as
well as other party members is at stake. They are all still
strong critics of the government’s upcoming election and
have campaigned not to vote in the election as it would not
be free and fair.
Increased harassment or arrest of active members of the
party is highly likely in the next phase of the regime’s
plan to destroy the party completely. Although the party
decided in March not to register to contest the upcoming
election, the NLD’s recent efforts to stay active in public
affairs has clearly agitated the military government.
Anyway, consequences will also depend on what the NLD
members attempt to carry out in the months before and after
the Nov. 7 election.
When talking about the NLD, no one can exclude Suu Kyi, who
is still believed to be the most influential person among
the general public. Though her voice was rarely heard during
the past 14 years of her house arrest, she’s still the most
feared political threat to the regime.
After her release, the 64-year-old Nobel laureate is
expected to continue what she calls “Burma’s second struggle
for independence.” We’ll have to wait and see if she can
find a new role for her disbanded party.
According to Nyan Win, her lawyer, she should be released by
Nov. 13. But whether or not the generals will release her is
still an open question. The release date is only six days
after the election and because the generals fear her
extraordinary popularity, they may well find an excuse to
keep her in detention longer, depriving her of the ability
to criticize the outcome of the election.
For years, Burma had strong opposition parties or groups.
Even NLD efforts were severely curtailed by the junta. Even
so, there is no equivalent political party among the 37
registered parties now contesting the election.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently expressed
“concern” over the dissolution of the NLD and nine other
parties. But the generals never listened to such concerns.
They are only concerned that almost all the seats in the
parliaments will be held by the incumbent generals and
recent generals-turned-“politicians” of the Union Solidarity
and Development Party led by Prime Minister Thein Sein.
The international community has consistently called for
inclusive, free and fair elections, but in fact, even if the
elections were fair, things still wouldn’t change for the
better. The government-backed USDP is the only one that’s
able to contest all 1,163 seats in the parliament, a fact
that can not be overcome by pro-democracy candidates. And
finally, the Constitution guarantees the military will
occupy 25 percent of the seats in parliament.
Everything is in place for the generals to continue ruling
the country: from within the parliament.
Democratic Party to focus
efforts on lower house, leader says
Mizzima News: Thu 16 Sep 2010
Chiang Mai – Most of the 47 candidates submitted by the
Democratic Party (Myanmar) led by Thu Wai will contest seats
in the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house), standing for Rangoon,
Mandalay, Pegu and Tenasserim divisions, and Mon and Arakan
states.Mizzima’s Ko Wild spoke to the Rangoon division
Mingalar Taungnyunt constituency Pyithu Hluttaw (lower
house) candidate, who said his party had to fear orders
coming from above because most of the Union Election
Commission (UEC) members were army officers.
Q: How many candidates from your party passed UEC scrutiny?
A: Three candidates were taken from our list before it was
submitted to the UEC. Now that Hla Myint has been rejected
by the UEC … I think 47 finally passed. Two candidates
withdrew the nominations they submitted as their families
had objected to them participating. They are from Pathein
[township, Irrawaddy] and Shwepyithar [township Rangoon]. In
the beginning, we had 51 candidates.
Q: In which assembly have you fielded the most candidates
A: The Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house). We had wanted to field
candidates in all constituencies but we had to stand only in
the constituencies we could … Many wanted to contest seats
in the lower house as opposed to the Nationalities Hluttaw
(upper house). Our candidates must bear their canvassing
expenses and candidate deposits out of their own pockets.
The upper house constituencies are bigger than those of the
lower house, with more eligible voters. Some of those in the
upper house comprise four or five townships and would’ve
cost candidates more.
Q: Did your party hold meetings with eight independent
A: Not often. Independent candidates are doing canvassing
work themselves and our party is doing its own work. But
since most of our candidates are not fielded in their
constituencies, we can help them. Likewise, they can help us
in our constituencies too. This is just an understanding
among us and that’s all. It’s not a very significant
Q: One of the eight, Dr. Phone Win, said one of your
candidates is running in his constituency. Please explain.
A: Yes, Ko Phone Win and our candidate Aung Than Myint are
standing in the same constituency. The latter is an
executive committee member of our party …We fielded our own
candidate before having co-ordination meetings with the
Q: Do you have any links to the National Democratic Front
A: Not yet. But personally, we are old acquaintances and are
on friendly terms with them.
Q: What do you think of the UEC notice on the right to
canvass on radio and television?
A: Fifteen minutes is not bad. We had only 10 minutes in
1990 but there are major differences in the restrictions.
There were no such controls in the 1990 general election. We
had to submit our draft copy of speeches to be delivered on
radio and TV and they were subject to censorship, but that’s
all. This time, however, a lot of restrictions have been
imposed on us. We don’t know yet what speeches we have to
Q: How will you cope with the nine restrictions listed in
the UEC notice?
A: All these restrictions seem imposed at the will of the
government and the electoral commission. They can do
whatever they like, whether they take action or not. For
instance, the restriction says not to stimulate sedition or
give any talks that can tarnish the image of the state. So
if we point out the drawbacks and weaknesses in the state,
they can take action against us with this restriction. It
all depends on them.
Q: So, what shall you do?
A: We must take this opportunity and we must speak cleverly.
Under our objectives, we shall say what drawbacks are in our
country and how we shall tackle these issues, but not in
directly attacking government – we can’t do that.
Q: What differences have you noticed between the current UEC
and the 1990 body?
A: The two commissions are quite different. The former
commission was constituted with experienced elders. Though
they had a close rapport with the government at the time,
they didn’t blindly follow the dictates of the government.
But most of the current commission members are retired army
officers, who are used to following orders. In Rangoon
Division, we have found that the district and divisional
level UECs don’t know the electoral laws and rules very
well, which means they can work only when they receive
orders from above.
Q: Now you have known constituencies and candidates, in
which areas does your party expect to win?
A: We regard that we will win most of the constituencies we
contest. We don’t have any fears of contesting against
candidates from either the USDP or NUP but we have to
contest against candidates fielded by what we might call
pro-democracy forces or the opposition. So the confusion
surrounding the issue means that I can’t answer this
Army to vote in separate
ballot boxes – Maung Too
Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 15 Sep 2010
Burmese troops and their families in barracks will cast
their vote for the looming elections in separate ballot
boxes from ordinary civilians, the commander of a
Rangoon-based army battalion has told DVB.A directive was
issued on 6 September by the War Office in the capital,
Naypyidaw, and signed by Lt. Gen. Thura Myint Aung, who it
said was an official at Burma’s defence ministry, although
he has been tipped to head the army following the elections.
It was sent to army units across the country two months
prior to the 7 November polls.
Included in the directive was an order for troops to vote
for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party
(USDP), led by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, and to
“avoid a repeat of the 1990 elections” which the ruling
junta lost, despite having held onto power. If soldiers are
found to have voted for parties other than the USDP, their
battalion commanders will be penalised.
In preparation for the vote senior army officials are to
appoint a supervisor and assistant supervisor from soldiers’
families to man each of the ballot boxes. According to the
directive, every battalion will have its own box, and the
names of the appointed supervisors must be submitted to
Naypyidaw by 15 September.
The Rangoon commander added that each unit will collaborate
with local junta-appointed Election Commission (EC)
officials over the building of the ballot boxes. Troops who
will be serving on the frontline on the day of voting can
either cast votes in advance or use a form of long-distance
voting, although it is not clear how this will work.
The polls have already been widely derided by the
international community as a sham aimed at entrenching
military power under the guise of a civilian government.
Burma has been under a military dictatorship since 1962, and
conditions surrounding the elections appear to have been
tailored to ensure this continues.
Reports such as this of election fraud surface regularly and
compound concerns about the polls being free and fair: the
constitution awards a quarter of parliamentary seats to
military officers prior to voting, and influential members
of the junta have taken key positions in the USDP, which is
widely tipped to win.
Moreover, the USDP has announced it will field around 990
candidates, while the opposition National Democratic Force
(NDF) will field around 160. The 500,000 kyat (US$500) fee
for each candidate is beyond the reach of most parties
except for the USDP, whose war chest appears huge.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper today announced
that 37 parties would be competing in the polls, Burma’s
first in two decades.
Restrictions placed on
election campaign broadcasts – Ba Kaung
Irrawaddy: Wed 15 Sep 2010
Burma’s Election Commission (EC) has attached a number of
restrictions on the election campaign TV and radio
broadcasts political parties will be allowed to make.The
restrictions, announced on Tuesday, say the 37 parties
contesting the Nov. 7 election can publicize their policy
platforms during the allotted 15 minutes that the
state-controlled media will carry, but they must avoid
anything that defames or damages the honor of the ruling
government or tarnishes the image of the armed forces, the
Live broadcasts will not be allowed and scripts must be
submitted seven days beforehand to the Election Commission
for its approval.
The ruling effectively bans any criticism of the government
or any mention of the country’s problems, particularly
The parties face abolition if the EC finds they violate the
“We have to explain what our country needs and what reforms
are necessary in a delicate way,” said Thu Wai, the chairman
of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), who said his party would
take advantage of the 15-minute time slot.
The voting process in Burma’s first general election in 20
years has still to be explained fully to the electorate.
But, according to recent reports in the state-media, Burmese
voters can cast at least three ballots for candidates
standing for seats in the People’s Parliament, the
Nationalities Parliament and the Regional Parliament. In
several places, including Rangoon, ethnic people can cast an
additional vote to choose a candidate competing for
parliamentary seats allotted to ethnic minorities.
The articles also warned 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).
“I heard that the different ballot boxes will be separated
by color, but I still don’t know how to vote,” said a young
While political parties are heavily restricted in reaching
out to the people, the regime has allowed two
non-governmental organizations in Rangoon to give training
to the parties on the voting process, according to Rangoon
Rangoon-based Myanmar Egress and Shalom Foundation, locally
known as the Nyein Foundation, have already conducted
various training programs on voting procedures to members of
political parties running in the election, the sources said.
Both organizations are known for their support of the
junta’s 2008 Constitution and the upcoming election.
They reportedly gave training to up to 10 political parties
including the National Democratic Force (NDF), Shan National
Democratic Party (SNDP), Democratic Party (Myanmar), Kayin
Peoples Party and two other parties representing the Arakan
and Mon people.
The Shalom Foundation was founded in 2001 by the Rev. Saboi
Jum, a leading figure in the ceasefire agreement reached
between the regime and the armed Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO), and he is still working as a peace
negotiator between them. He has condemned the KIO for its
persistent refusal to accept the government’s border guard
“The Shalom is encouraging people to participate in the
election,” said a Rangoon journalist.
It is not clear how the two groups conduct their training
When contacted by The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, the
secretary-general of Myanmar Egress, Nay Win Maung, declined
to comment on the training.
“We have concerns that these NGOs may be campaigning for the
junta’s proxy parties,but as long as they are not biased, it
should be okay because people probably don’t know how to
vote,” said Dr.Aye Maung, the chairman of the Rakhine
National Development Party.
Despite confusion about the voting process and restrictions
on political parties, officials of the junta’s proxy party,
the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), who are
also government ministers, are reportedly touring the
“The USDP is now publishing campaign pamphlets using the
state-owned press machines. It has even done TV programs for
campaigning,” said a Rangoon journalist.
Make-believe elections –
The Hindu: Wed 15 Sep 2010
Recent developments in Myanmar indicate that the ruling
junta is on a quest for a smokescreen of legitimacy before
tightening its grip on the nation in the November 7
election. In the second major reshuffle this year, 70 senior
military officers, including the Army’s number three,
General Thura Shwe Mann, quit their posts and are expected
to join the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a proxy
political party of the military. The first shuffle, in
April, saw the exit of another group of senior military men,
including Prime Minister Thein Sein. The moves are intended
to give a civilian face to the new parliament, in which a
quarter of the seats are reserved for serving military
officers. The retired officers are expected to contest the
remaining seats with no fear of defeat. By the August 30
deadline for registering candidates, the USDP had filed over
1,000 nominations while another pro-junta formation, the
National Unity Party, is fielding over 900 candidates. On
the other side, the two main democratic parties — the
National Democratic Force, which split from the
election-boycotting Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for
Democracy, and the Democratic Front — have been able to put
up fewer than 500 candidates between them. With the
registration fee fixed at $500, they did not have the money
to nominate any more.It has been clear from the start that
this election — the first in Myanmar since the historic 1990
contest in which Ms Suu Kyi’s party emerged victorious but
was barred from taking power — is no transition to
democracy. New election laws barred Ms Suu Kyi, who remains
under house arrest, from contesting because of her
convictions by the junta. Under the rules, the ensuing
boycott by her party led to its dissolution. The military,
whether in uniform or in civvies, and pro-military
politicians will dominate the 224-seat House of
Nationalities and the 440-seat House of Representatives.
What is less clear is the role “Senior General” Than Shwe,
head of the State Peace and Development Council, the
official name for the junta, has reserved for himself. It
was believed that he too had stepped down from his post to
contest the election as a civilian. But that has turned out
to be unfounded. He is likely to continue at the helm even
after the election and might quit as military chief only
when he is assured of a successor he can trust. But even if
he became a civilian ruler, and for all his engagement with
the international community, including India, the Myanmar
strongman cannot hope to acquire real legitimacy after
denying Ms Suu Kyi her rightful place in the country’s
Torn between two capitals
– Htet Aung
Irrawaddy: Wed 15 Sep 2010
Naypyidaw, a remote town located halfway between Burma’s two
main cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, has been the country’s
administrative capital since junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe
deemed it so on Nov. 6, 2005.Five years less one day later,
as per the 2008 Constitution, Naypyidaw will become a “Union
territory” directly governed by the president after the
election on Nov. 7.
The political structure of Burma will change after the
election; however, the question is: will the political
dynamism of the country shift from its old capital, Rangoon,
to the new capital whose name translates into English as
“The Abode of Kings”?
Traditionally, Rangoon has played the pivotal role in
Burmese politics, as well as serving as the country’s
economic hub ever since colonial times. However, its status
was degraded by the military junta when it packed its
governmental and administrative bags and moved 200 miles
north to an undeveloped site just two miles from Pyinmana.
The construction of the new parliament continued apace with
the construction of eight-lane avenues, an international
airport and a 24-hour electricity supply, as well as the
migration of government officials and their families to the
Five years later, Burma’s would-be modern metropolis will
undergo the transition from a synthetic ghost town to a hive
of parliamentary activity. Officially, it will become
Burma’s first civil administration in two decades.
The new parliament is composed of 31 buildings, as well as
presidential mansions for the future president and two
Synthetic, soulless and desperately devoid of social
interaction, Naypyidaw has failed to persuade the staff and
families of the United Nations agencies and foreign
diplomatic missions to relocate their headquarters and
embassies, severely undermining its integrity as a capital
The fact is that most ambassadors, diplomats, INGO heads and
their families are accustomed to living the high life in
whatever country they are assigned. They circulate at
cocktail parties, dine at the best restaurants in the city,
send their children to the best international schools and
constantly receive invitations to glamorous society events.
A far cry from a life in bureaucratic Naypyidaw.
When the Union Election Commission opened its doors for
political party registration in March, it was unsurprising
that every major national party, bar one, had its
headquarters in Rangoon. The exception was, of course, the
Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which based
its headquarters in Naypyidaw.
Asked about the political polarization of Rangoon and
Naypyidaw, Chan Htun, a veteran politician and a former
ambassador to China said: “I see Rangoon continuing to serve
as the center of the democratic movement due to some key
factors, such as population density, the home of the
political parties and the well-established transportation
networks linking the country, while Naypyidaw emerges as the
fortress of the ruling party.”
But could political tensions between the two cities spill
over in the future?
“I don’t think so,” said Wun Tha, an elected representative
of the National League for Democracy in the 1990 election
who currently works as a journalist. “Tension usually raises
its head in a formidable situation, for instance, the
growing strength of an opposition group threatening or
seeking confrontation with the ruling party. What we are
witnessing now is the would-be ruling party, the USDP,
leaving all the other parties far behind in the race. It
feels no threat.”
In the newly emerging political landscape, the leadership of
the USDP have chosen isolation in a Naypyidaw where they
will quickly fall out of touch with the everyday needs of
the people, not to mention their own members in more than
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