A trap for the NLD

Thakin Chan Tun

(Mizzima) – With the ruling junta having announced the electoral laws for its planned 2010 elections, Mizzima talked with two veteran politicians – one living in the country and another who is in exile.

Thakhin Chan Tun, a former diplomat during the parliamentary democracy era now retired in Rangoon, and Yebaw Pho Than Gyaung, spokesperson of the once powerful Burma Communist Party (BCP), now living in China, spoke on the junta’s electoral laws and their views on the possible impact they will have on Burma’s political development.

 

Thakhin Chan Tun

Q: What do you think of the Burmese military government’s electoral laws for the upcoming elections?

Ans: Since I am not interested, I have not read the electoral laws. I think the junta will write them according to the way they want. Since it will be the way they want, it cannot be what the people desire.

Thakin Chan Tun
Thakin Chan Tun

They (junta) are doing it the way they want and justifying it with whatever laws they want. The constitution has already guaranteed a place for the military, so it will be against democracy. The junta will automatically get their political space and will run for office under various names like the Union Solidarity and Development Associations (USDA).

Q: What do you think of Articles 6 and 10 of the Political Parties Registration Law?

Ans: It is clear that they do not want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be taking part in the elections. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention term will only be over in November, so if the junta conducts the elections sometime before that they will automatically exclude her. That’s because they are the ones ruling now, so they will do it according to what they want. Whether we like it or not, they are bound to do things in their favor. But as much as some groups would like to boycott the elections, there are also some new groups that are likely to come up and take part in the election.

Q: What do you think of Article 6 when it speaks to protecting the constitution?

Ans: That Article clearly restricts political and student activists who are currently under detention from taking part in the elections.

Q: As you have experienced Burmese elections in previous eras, how would you compare previous elections with the upcoming election?

Ans: There were elections held during democratic rule in Burma in 1952, 1956 and 1960. During these elections there was freedom to campaign, freedom of speech and expression. Political parties would campaign to win the vote. But this time it is not democratic, and there are a lot of restrictions. There should be democracy and parties should be allowed to campaign freely. But now the law states many restrictions such as prisoners not being candidates and those under detention not being able to vote. During democratic rule even those in jail were allowed to contest for parliamentary seats and were allowed to be representatives. But now, if someone is under detention they automatically lose their right to contest elections and even lost their right to vote. So, I think it is important for the people to see clearly and decide what they should be doing. 

Yebaw Pho Than Gyaung

Q: Please tell us what is the stance of the BCP regarding the ruling junta’s electoral laws?

Ans: The junta has been announcing law after law for their planned elections. And almost all the laws issued can be seen to be aiming at a particular person or group of people. There are things that the National League for Democracy (Burma’s main opposition group) have told the ruling junta, such as with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s open letter to military leader Senior General Than Shwe and the Shwegondaing declaration. But the junta completely ignored all their demands.

But what I want to emphasize here is that all of us need to be more careful. I am cautioning all of us, even while welcoming news that the junta has permitted the reopening of NLD offices in Rangoon. It could be a trap for Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

In BCP’s own experience in the 1948 election, when the government tried to suppress us they used various means to arrest and sentence our members. Similarly, now the junta is targeting the NLD. The junta is placing traps everywhere to catch members of the NLD. We should be fully aware of this fact.

Q: What do you think of Articles 6 and 10 of the Political Parties Registration Law?

Ans: It has already been said by many other observers, I think we share similar points of views. The junta is systematically suppressing opposition party members. I think the junta is systematically suppressing opposition groups. It is clear that they are aiming at a particular person. In Burmese politics, politicians cannot be away from prisons. Successive regimes have suppressed the opposition and have kept them under detention. I think all politicians are being targeted. But in the earlier democratic era, Burma allowed political prisoners to participate in elections and also allowed them to run for office.

During this time there were student representatives, and since the people liked them they were elected. But now, the people cannot join the elections if they are arrested or under detention. It is very clear whom the junta is targeting and which political party they are aiming at.

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