many international observers, particularly in ASEAN, proclaim
that while they have doubts about the election, it is better than
nothing at all, the elections is in fact going to make the situation
in Burma worse. The SPDC’s elections aim to legitimize and
perpetuate military rule under the guise of democratic “reform.”
In essence, the regime is just repackaging itself to make its
rule more internationally acceptable without enacting much needed
elections are more likely to give the current regime greater international
credibility while perpetuating the status quo, making the chance
for real reform even more remote. At the very least, the constitution
must be changed to lower the 75% threshold to reflect common practice
for constitutional amendments.
AND POLITICAL ACTIVISTS
SPDC’s 2008 constitution prohibits people that are serving
prison sentences for any offense from standing for election to
Parliament, being appointed as a Minister, or being considered
for the Presidency. Many leaders in the pro-democracy movement
remain in prison because of their political activities, including
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and would thus be barred from seeking political
AND ETHNIC NATIONALITIES
constitution serves as a green light for the continued Burmanization
and militarization of ethnic nationality areas. The constitution
grants very limited legislative and executive powers to local
bodies. The National Parliament and the executive branch retain
exclusive power to legislate and govern on critical issues such
as: land administration; use of natural resources; health; education;
and justice. In State and Division Parliaments, the Commander-in-Chief
of the Defense Services appoints 25% of the seats. State and Division
governments have very little autonomy, with State and Divisions
Chief Ministers chosen directly by the President and Security
and Border Affairs handled by Defense Services personnel appointed
by the Commander-in-Chief.
constitution also only recognizes Burmese as the national language.
None of the ethnic nationality languages are even mentioned in
AND CEASEFIRE GROUPS
338 requires that “all the armed forces in the Union shall
be under the command of the Defense Services.” In order
to implement this provision and force ethnic groups to participate
in the election, the SPDC issued an ultimatum in late April 2009
to the various ethnic ceasefire groups to incorporate their armed
forces into a new Border Guard Force (BGF) under SPDC Army control
prior to the 2010 elections.
a result, the SPDC Army has increased its military presence in
Kachin, Shan, and Karen States in an attempt to coerce the ceasefire
groups into joining the BGF. In August 2009, the SPDC Army offensive
against the Kokang ceasefire group Myanmar National Democracy
Alliance Army in Northern Shan State pushed nearly 37,000 refugees
into China, and made other ceasefire groups wary of SPDC intentions.
Ceasefire groups are on standby for possible hostilities with
the SPDC Army. Military observers and analysts predict that if
the SPDC Army launched an offensive against the UWSA, an estimated
50,000 Shan and Wa refugees would flee to neighboring Thailand
and even more into China.
AND THE CONSTITUTION
in the event that the pro-democracy parties win the majority of
the seats, the military still has an ace up its sleeve: effective
veto power over the constitutional amendment process. The Defense
Services Commander-in-Chief the power to appoint 25% of the seats
in both houses of the National Parliament. Constitutional amendments
require over 75% approval from both houses of Parliament, which
would require approval from the military bloc.
AND THE MILITARY
Defense Services Commander-in-Chief is accountable to no civilian
authority once appointed. Burma’s military, in effect, remains
an independent entity. The Commander-in-Chief is also responsible
for the submitting names for the Ministers of Defense, Security/Home
Affairs, and Border Affairs at the National level and also selects
Defense Services personnel responsible for security and border
affairs at the State and Division level.
President is empowered to declare a “state of emergency”
and “restrict or suspend” fundamental rights of the
citizens. During a state of emergency the Commander-in-Chief assumes
legislative, executive, and judicial powers, completely subverting
democratic processes. The military would receive immunity from
prosecution for actions taken during emergency rule.
AND HUMAN RIGHTS
constitution deprives people of their basic human rights by stipulating
“exception clauses,” which preserve draconian laws
that explicitly prohibit freedom of speech, association, and assembly.
These existing laws will influence the freedom to campaign in
the run-up to the elections, as well as future elections.
AND THE SPDC
441 of the constitution provides that the charter shall come into
force on the first day that the National Parliament convenes.
Given this provision, the SPDC will continue to rule until the
date on which Parliament finally convenes, which in the case of
the 1990 elections, still has not happened.