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Alternative Asean Network on Burma
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PRESS RELEASES, OPEN LETTERS, STATEMENTS

4 November 2010

BURMA ELECTIONS: THE CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD FOR DEMOCRACY

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) strongly condemn the Burmese military regime’s continued use of repressive and restrictive measures to ensure that the outcome of the 7 November general elections will perpetuate military control of the country. The regime has ignored repeated calls by the democratic movement in Burma, ethnic groups, and the international community to release all political prisoners, cease hostilities against ethnic groups, and engage in genuine dialogue with all key stakeholders, including reviewing the 2008 Constitution as a first step.

The 2008 Constitution entrenches military rule by giving the Defence Services Commander-in-Chief sweeping powers, including the right to appoint 25% of the seats in both houses of the National Parliament and 25% of the seats in Regional Parliaments. The five election laws promulgated in March 2010 are repressive and undemocratic, designed to control the electoral process and bar pro-democracy activists and parties from participating in the polls. Recent directives from the election commission, whose members are hand-picked by the military, also place draconian restrictions on political and campaign activities of political parties, making it virtually impossible to even hold meetings within party offices without prior government approval.

In September, the election commission cancelled voting in over 3,400 villages in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, and Shan states, where ethnic groups dominate. As many as 1.5 million people are believed to have been disenfranchised by this action. At the same time, serious international crimes, including extra-judicial killings, forced labour, torture, rape and recruitment of child soldiers, continue to be documented.

Led by Prime Minister Thein Sein and with ample financial resources, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), together with a number of pro-military political parties, are fielding candidates for every seat open at all legislative levels. The combination of the restrictive legal framework and the overwhelming strength of the USDP effectively mean that the military junta’s proxy parties and supporters are poised to dominate legislatures at all levels following the elections this Sunday.

FIDH, together with all major international and regional as well as Burmese organizations, has continuously called for the establishment of a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious allegations about crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated by the military regime. The establishment of such Commission would have sent, ahead of the elections, a strong message that the international community and the world opinion will not be manipulated by the regime. Today, an entire country is on the brink of becoming a legitimised hostage to one of cruellest regimes in the world.

“The international community should have no illusion of what these unfree, unfair, non-inclusive and oppressive elections will produce”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “Plastering a civilian façade on a military dictatorship will not only delay democracy and national reconciliation in Burma, but also aggravate the root causes of conflict in the country. In the aftermath of the elections, the world must step up its support for all human rights defenders and the democratic movement in Burma and spare no efforts in holding the military regime, whether in its current or future structure, accountable for the serious international crimes. For over 40 years the world has watched the repression in Burma and only uttered statements. It’s time to act.”

ENDS