Opposition to Boycott Myanmar Vote

KyaemonMarch 29, 201016min1334

Opposition to Boycott Myanmar Vote

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/world/asia/30myanmar.html?hp

BANGKOK – After months of internal debate, members of the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the long-detained pro-democracy leader, defied Myanmar’s junta by announcing Monday that they would boycott the country’s first elections in two decades.

The move raises questions about both the future of the Burmese opposition and the credibility of the vote.

According to election laws the junta released earlier this month, the decision means that the party that has served as the mainstay of the country’s democratic movement for two decades, the National League for Democracy, will be automatically dissolved. Western governments, including the United States and Britain, had said that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s participation and that of her party were prerequisites for legitimate elections.

On Monday, U Win Tin, a founding member and strategist for the party, said that more than 100 delegates were unanimous in their decision. “We will ask the people around us not to vote in the election: Please boycott,” he said in a telephone interview. He said that the party would try to continue political activities after it is disbanded. “We will work for the people,” he said.

The party had been split over whether to participate in the elections, forced to choose between participation that would undercut its principles and a boycott that would dissolve it. Last week, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi said through a spokesman that she viewed the election process as ‘unjust’ and that she felt that the party should not take part.

“They made a decision to maintain their dignity,” said Win Min, a lecturer in contemporary Burmese politics at Payap University in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. “They wanted to keep Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader. On the other hand, what is their alternative after this?”

Mr. Win Min said the National League for Democracy would likely be disbanded by May 6, a deadline set in the election laws. The party’s assets, including offices, might be seized. “Some members may be planning to set up a new party,” Mr. Win Min said.

The ruling generals portray the vote as part of a ‘roadmap’ to democracy after 48 years of military rule, while diplomats and exile groups view it as window-dressing for the junta’s continued hold on power.

But some inside Myanmar say they believe the elections offer at least a modest positive step.

In recent months the military government has announced nascent liberalization measures that they see as possibly the beginning of a decentralization of power. The measures include issuing permits for private hospitals and schools and allowing private-sector management of the rice industry.
But the counterpoint to these economic measures is the consistently hard line that the military has taken with the political force it considers its archenemy, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 64, and her followers. Her party won a landslide victory in 1990, a result that was ignored by the ruling generals and officially nullified just this month.

The party has been weakened by two decades of harassment, intimidation and imprisonment of many of its members, including Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Win Tin. The party’s leaders are aging – Mr. Win Tin is 81 – and the membership has dwindled.

Among many restrictive measures in the election law, criminal convictions bar candidacy. This includes Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Win Tin among the estimated 2,100 political prisoners in the country, many of whom were leaders of protest movements in 1988 and 2007 and form the core of the country’s democracy movement.

Taking part in a new election would also have been a signal to people in Myanmar that the National League for Democracy had agreed to forgo its 1990 victory, Mr. Win Tin said. “We would have to give up all of our political convictions,” he said.

The party also wanted to send a signal to armed ethnic groups in the northern reaches of the country that the election was illegitimate. The junta is demanding that the ethnic groups disarm.

“A sort of civil war will flare up very soon,” Mr. Win Tin predicted.

Mr. Win Tin urged countries in Asia and the West to threaten to withhold aid to the junta. “Please put more pressure on the government,” he said. “That is my message.”

Mr. Win Tin, who wrote poetry during his nearly two decades in prison, used a concoction of water and red dust from the bricks of his cell to write his verses. He was denied pen and paper in the infamously brutal prison system.

Today, he said he is followed by military intelligence whenever he leaves the house. Agents were outside on motorcycle as he spoke to this reporter, he said.

“For me it’s as if I were still in prison,” he said. “I feel like the whole country is imprisoned,” he said.

Suu Kyi’s NLD party to boycott Burma election

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8592365.stm

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), says it will not take part in the country’s first polls in two decades.

An NLD spokesman said the party had decided not to register because of “unjust” electoral laws.

The laws recently announced by the junta required the NLD to expel its detained leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, because she has a criminal record.

Its refusal to register means the NLD will no longer be legally recognised.

No date has been set for the elections, but the military has pledged to hold them this year.
The NLD won the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Rachel Harvey, says the party’s decision to boycott the coming election, rather than ousting its charismatic leader in order to participate, was largely expected.

But the move will do nothing to ease international concern about the country’s already heavily-criticised political standards, she adds.

No compromise

The NLD’s decision followed a meeting of more than 100 party members in Rangoon.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the party had agreed that it could not participate in the elections under the new laws, which were announced in early March.

“After a vote of the committee of members, the NLD party has decided not to register as a political party because the election laws are unjust,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

The decision did not come as a surprise – last week Nyan Win said Ms Suu Kyi had told him the party should “not even think” of taking part in the polls because of the nature of the election laws.

If the NLD had chosen to take part, it would have implied its acceptance of the military’s constitution – something it has so far refused to do.

Some senior NLD leaders had argued the party risked rendering itself irrelevant if it chose not to contest the polls, even though that participation would be constrained by the military.

Win Tin, a veteran NLD member and one of Burma’s longest-serving political prisoners, described the meeting as a “life-or-death issue”.

“If we don’t register, we will not have a party and we will be without legs and limbs,” he said ahead of the announcement.

But Tin Oo, the party’s recently-released deputy leader, said that the decision did not signal the end for the NLD. “There are many peaceful ways to continue our activities,” he said.

The new election laws have been condemned by the UN, US and UK, among others.

The laws state that parties cannot have any members with criminal convictions – which rules out many top NLD leaders who have been jailed because of their political activism.

The laws also ban members of religious orders and civil servants from joining political parties. Buddhist monks were the driving force behind anti-junta protests in 2007.

Critics say both the election laws and the constitution under which the elections will be held are designed to ensure that the military retains a firm grip on power in Burma.

With Burma election boycott, Suu Kyi party risks breakup

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2010/0329/With-Burma-election-boycott-Suu-Kyi-party-risks-breakup

Aung San Suu Kyi party members announced a boycott on the Burma election Monday to avoid endorsing an “unfair” process. But the largest opposition group in Burma (Myanmar) now risks being broken up under controversial election laws.

Thailand

The largest opposition party in Burma (Myanmar) said Monday it won’t contest military-run elections later this year, a move that under controversial election laws could lead to its breakup.

The decision by the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest, came after a party meeting in Rangoon (Yangon). Spokesman Nyan Win told reporters that members had voted not to participate because “the election laws are unjust,” Reuters reported.

The NLD has been gripped by divisions over the logic of an election boycott, which is punishable by party dissolution. Some activists argued that staying out of the political process was futile, while others insisted that capitulation to an undemocratic ballot was wrong.

Monday’s decision wasn’t a surprise, as Ms. Suu Kyi was recently quoted as saying she was personally opposed to participation but would allow the party to decide for itself. The Nobel Peace laureate, who led the NLD to victory in a 1990 poll that was later annulled, is considered untouchable by many party members.

Cramping Western engagement

The Obama administration has sought to engage with Burma’s military rulers while maintaining longstanding sanctions. It has also strongly criticized a 2008 Constitution and the laws governing the election, expected to be held in October or November.

Among the rules laid down by the junta is a ban on prisoners joining political parties, which excludes Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 other political detainees. Monks and civil servants are also banned. Parties have until May 7 to register for the election or face dissolution.
Dozens of new and existing parties are expected to contest elections overseen by a military-appointed commission. But the exclusion of the NLD, even by its own hand, may drive a wedge between Western powers and Asian countries keen to strengthen ties to Burma and willing to give a passing grade to a flawed election.

“It will be difficult for the US and the West to engage with Burma on this issue,” says Aung Naing Oo, an exiled Burmese analyst in Chiang Mai, Thailand, who has urged the NLD to participate in the elections.

A “principled stance
Advocates of an election boycott reject the argument that civilian rule is a first step toward democracy, even if the vote is imperfect. They argue that the NLD and other democrats will be emasculated in a parliament in which military proxies and appointed generals will control the levers.

In a commentary in the Irrawaddy, an exile-run publication, Dr. Zarni, a dissident based in Bangkok, compared participation to the abdication in 1885 of King Thibaw, Burma’s last sovereign, at colonial Britain’s behest.

The political process ‘on offer’ by Burma’s ruling military junta is deeply one-sided, harmful to the country’s interests … so much so that anyone who cares about the country’s future should stiffen the spine and take a realistic and principled stance against the ‘election’; he wrote.

Even if the NLD stays out, some members may chose to set up alternative parties or lend support to other allied parties. But they could find themselves coming in conflict with other NLD factions that want to enforce the boycott, says Aung Naing Oo.

He warns that other activists frustrated by the junta’s glacial path to democracy may take a more radical approach, despite the odds stacked against them. My biggest worry is a possible confrontation with the military. That could come soon, he says.

4 comments

  • Kyaemon

    March 29, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    NLD not to re-register with Election Commission

    http://www.mizzima.com/news/election-2010/3739-nld-not-to-re-register-with-election-commission.html

    (Mizzzima) – In a significant decision, which may have far reaching consequences in Burmese politics, the main opposition party the National League for Democracy has decided not to re-register with the Election Commission for the 2010 general elections, following hectic parleys by the party brass at a meeting today.

    “After a vote of the committee of members, the NLD party has decided not to register as a political party because the election laws are unjust,” National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman Nyan Win told reporters at the party headquarters in Rangoon.

    The decision not to contest the election was decided unanimously at a meeting of members of the Central Executive Committee and Central Committee of States and Divisions, after heated debates both in the party fold and in Burmese political circles.

    “Vice-Chairman Tin Oo, who was released from house arrest recently, announced two decisions taken at the meeting. One was not to register the party and another was not to abolish the party although it is not being registered,” said a youth leader who was waiting for the party decision in front of the party office.

    However, Aung Shwe, chairman of Burma’s National League for Democracy did not turn up for the meeting of the party brass today, for a crucial decision on whether the party would re-register with the Election Commission.

    A hundred and thirteen members of the party’s Central Executive Committee and Central Committee attended the meeting today, except Aung Shwe (the chairman), U Lwin (secretary) and Lun Tin (CEC member).

    Sources in the party told Mizzima that Aung Shwe had sent a message since yesterday, which said he would abide by the decision of detained party general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The junta’s electoral laws announced on March 8, states if NLD wants to re-register, it must expel the general secretary Suu Kyi, who was sentenced to 18 months under house arrest, 10 members of the Central Committee and other party members accounting for 430 odd.

    If the NLD, 12 million members at a highest point, does not re-register within the 60 day deadline that ends on May 7, it’ll cease to exist automatically. There is a heated debate on among party leaders whether the party should be re-register.

    On March 13, the leader of the party, Suu Kyi told her lawyers that she didn’t want the party to be re-registered.

    During the meeting of NLD’s leaders, near the Shwegondine traffic light, two trucks of security men and two fire trucks were stationed. In the campus of the B.E.H.S (3) Bahan, there were eight trucks of security forces.

  • Kyaemon

    March 29, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    NLD Says ‘No’ to Election

    http://irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=18143

    Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Monday decided against registering for the general election this year, a party spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

    “Without any objections, all the party leaders reached a consensus not to register the party and join the election because the junta’s election laws are unjust,” said senior party official Khin Maung Swe who attended the meeting at the party’s Rangoon headquarters. “We also agreed to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.”

    Party officials said that the lawyer of detained leader Suu Kyi read out a message from Suu Kyi to the party leaders at the meeting and said that “Daw Suu could not accept the party registering under the unjust laws, but she said that neither she nor anyone else owns the party. Therefore, the party members have to make the decision by themselves democratically.”

    The party’s 92-year-old party chairman, Aung Shwe, who recently voiced support for the party registering and taking part in the election, did not join in the meeting, but instead sent a letter stating that he would follow Suu Kyi’s decision, according to the party spokesman.

    Nearly 160 party representatives from across the country gathered at the party’s headquarters to take part in the meeting. The discussion mainly heard the views of the party’s central committee members. Reportedly, only one of them voiced the opinion that a political party “cannot be involved in politics without existing.”

    “U Tin Wai from Kachin State expressed his opinion on party registration, but accepted the majority decision,” said Ohn Kyaing, a party official. The election laws prohibit parties from having members who are currently in detention, so a decision to register would have forced Suu Kyi out of the party.

    About 50 party members wearing white T-shirts bearing a slogan saying “No” gathered in front of the party compound. Female party members were also reportedly holding a large green gourd presented to them by Suu Kyi last Tuesday through her lawyer. The word “No” is said to have been written on the gourd.

    Although security was heightened with four riot police trucks deployed near the party headquarters, there were no reports of harassment of NLD leaders by the authorities.

    Before the meeting, several township representatives and party youth leaders declared that they will stand by Suu Kyi’s stance against registration, claiming that they can still struggle for democratic rights without a political party.

    The party decision would appear to ensure that the NLD will cease to exist as a legal entity as of the May 7 deadline for party registration, according to the election law.

    Many observers are currently speculating what will become of the party after it ceases to be a valid political entity, and what kind of action the regime will take against the NLD’s leadership and its party members.

    A political analyst in Rangoon, said that what the NLD does after May 7 would depend on the wit and wisdom of the party leaders at the local level.

    Reuters correspondent Martin Perry said, “The boycott, however, could backfire and marginalize the NLD, possibly leading to its dissolution. Its credibility as a pro-democracy force will be questioned now it has spurned the chance to be part of a political transition that the junta itself says will be lengthy and challenging.”

    Perry said that the decision of the NLD “came as a disappointment to the international community, which has long painted Suu Kyi and the NLD as the people’s choice and the best hope for a democratic Myanmar [Burma].”

    In Suu Kyi’s statement, she said that the party will not come to an end, and she also relayed a message to the Burmese people saying that she will continue her efforts for democracy.

    Last week, Suu Kyi reportedly told her lawyers that if the imprisoned former student leader Min Ko Naing could fight for democracy in Burma without a political “signpost,” she could do the same.

    Charismatic Min Ko Naing and several student activists of the 88 Generation Students group were arrested in 2007 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

    The election laws bar more than 2,000 political prisoners from taking part in the election which junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe described as “the very beginning of the process of fostering democracy” in his speech on Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on Saturday.

    No date has been announced for the upcoming election, which critics have called a sham designed to keep the military in power through the facade of an elected government.

    The NLD won a landslide victory in Burma’s last election in 1990, but the results were never honored by the regime. Party leader Suu Kyi is currently serving an 18-month term of house arrest. With her sentence due to expire in November, Suu Kyi would not be released before the polls expected in October.

  • timothy

    May 31, 2010 at 9:05 am

    The leading democracy party of Burma had boycotted the fake election2010. It will definitely make Junta happy for NLD and Democrat to fall into Junta`s trick and trap, well-known dirty, low- character and ill-mannered plans of Than Shwe. NLD got no chance but to oppose the 2010 planned election. The Junta became very desperate to complete the road map and had to ignore the calls of respected international bodies to consider the all inclusiveness and fairness in coming election. Than Shwe further accused the foreign country for meddling in the sovereign country. Here, I like to draw the individual attentions in regard of my call for boycotting the election. Some of the 3rd force in Burma like to grab the slim hope of participating in election and test any chance of democracy offered by so-called chance of the life time. Than Shwe had successfully implant the false hope in thousands of peoples` mind, dupe them to believe in his notorious road map. Why can Than Shwe not allow Daw Suu and Jailed leaders to be inclusive in election? He could say everything sinister under the sun, foreign stooges, jail sentences, and enemy of Road Maps. He can not admit the truth. The truth that Daw Suu and these jailed leaders are real problem for his desperate 7-step plan. If we know this important fact that Than Shwe got no plan whatsoever of giving power to civilian. In other word his plan is for complete control of Burma under Military commands with the help of Rubber-stamped parliament. Now the 3rd force hell-bend to take the chance at Junta`s plan, they have to prepare to rubber-stamp the state of emergencies and mass killing by soldiers. The past, present and future military`s crimes will be legitimized by this parliament. Do not play with fire. You got no chance to play with Fascist Junta. Now, UN and Western democracy administration had to admit that Burma problem must be decided only by its citizens, not by external influences. China, Russia and Asean all agree with it. The people of Burma are left at the mercy of fascist invasion Army of Burma. People got to show the people power. I am not saying that people have to come out into streets and protest the unfair election. The junta had successfully killed thousands of revered Buddhist monks in 2007. You got no chance to gain from another thousands death again. People must boycott the election on election day by staying at home, absent from schools, works, factories, streets, polling stations and any public places. On election day we will create the ghost towns and cities, absent of lives all over Burma. These images will be beamed by satellite across the globe. Show your disapproval of Than Shwe`s plans to the world on election day. No military intelligence will come and knock on your door on election day and pre election days for this kind of opposition. Spread this news. Do your bit for liberty. Mark your contribution on this historic event. It is safe for you and your family. Only one day. Each and everyone of us can plan on our own. Your plan can be part of 40 millions others in Burma. You and Burmese/ ethnic people only can do for your liberty. Daw Suu and NLD had done their bit. People power can do its bit. Yes, we can. We can knock the fascist out of power. Burmese people can do it. Yes, we can. Comments are welcome.

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