National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

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Archive for November 2010

Burma election not free and fair; unrest looms

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As expected, the November 7 parliamentary election in Burma was marred by fraud, eliciting condemnation from Burmese citizens and observers, election monitors, citizens in exile, Western governments, some Asian governments like the Philippines and Japan, and the United Nations.

Burmese media outlet in-exile The Irrawaddy enumerated some of the types of irregularities and fraud that took place on election day, as reported by citizens, reporters, and observers under cover: ballot stuffing, lack of secrecy in voting, faulty voters’ lists, unsealed or poorly secured ballot boxes, polling station officers’ bias (telling voters to vote for candidates belonging to the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party — USDP), illegal campaign, party members serving as polling station officers, proxy voting, violence and intimidation. Citizens reported that local officials supporting USDP had been collecting advance votes prior to election day, threatening people that they would lose their jobs or source of livelihood if they do not vote for USDP. These officials also reportedly forced individuals to change their votes if they voted for the opposition. Candidates also reportedly ticked ballots themselves.

Prior to polling day, the election had already been criticized for excluding many ethnic areas deemed critical of the junta. Oppositionists like Aung San Suu Kyi remain in detention and were not allowed to contest the election. International media and election observers were also barred from monitoring the election inside the country. The November 7 election has been generally viewed by citizens and Burma observers as a way to give a false sheen of democracy to a military junta keen on perpetuating its rule and further entrenching itself into Burmese society.

Unrest has been brewing since the lead-up to the polls. On November 5, leaders of six ethnic armies met in Thailand to forge an alliance, agreeing to fight together against the Burmese Army if one of them is attacked by the junta. This stemmed from their refusal to lay down their arms and agree to the demand of the junta to dismantle and join Myanmar’s “Border Guard Force” (BGF). The different ethnic groups have been fighting against the central Burmese government for decades to grant them independence or autonomy, in accordance with the 1947 Panglong Agreement they signed — initiated by General Aung San (Suu Kyi’s father) — which essentially created the country of Burma. (Aung San had since been assassinated, and the Agreement ignored by the central government). Most of them were on ceasefire status with the government, until the deadline to dismantle had passed and the junta started to label one of the ethnic armies, the popular Kachin Independent Army (KIA) as “insurgents,” sparking fears of imminent attack.

Yesterday, November 8, fighting broke out between the Burmese Army and a faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) (itself a splinter group from the Karen National Union which is party to the ethnic alliance) at the Thai/Burma border in Myawaddy. Several people reportedly have already been killed or injured, while at least 5,000 refugees have started to pour into the Thai border town of Mae Sot, already home to thousands of Burmese refugees. The DKBA faction, which initiated the attack on government facilities, said this is in reaction to the junta’s decree to dismantle and join the BGF, and the unfairness of the electoral process. The KIA already said they are on high alert, although none of the members of the newly formed alliance have expressed that they will join the DKBA group in fighting against the Burmese Army.

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Written by namfrel

November 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Burma