The reaction to the elections builds upon nearly half a century of political repression and human rights abuses that have torn apart the fabric of Burmese society.
Armed conflict has broken out in several regions along the Thailand-Burma border as a result of escalating tensions between Burma's military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and armed ethnic groups that are refusing to surrender their arms or join the SPDC's Border Guard Force.
Naw Htoo Paw of Karen Women's Organization—an AJWS grantee—reported that by the afternoon of November 8, one day after the election, fighting had broken out between the SPDC and one faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). Thousands of civilians from Burma have crossed the border into Thailand to seek shelter from the violence which has seriously endangered Burmese people in the region of Myawaddy.
Four Thai civilians have been killed and the number of Burmese casualties remains uncertain. Fighting is now spreading to other areas on the Thailand-Burma border, including at Three Pagoda Pass.
Taken against the backdrop of undemocratic pre-election conditions and reports of widespread human rights violations, the lack of public participation in these elections demonstrates how the people of Burma lack trust and confidence in their country's political process.
Since 2002, AJWS has funded grassroots organizations in Burma, Thailand and on the Thailand-Burma border, largely in the refugee camps and conflict areas where human rights abuses against Burma's ethnic minorities are the most profound. AJWS's partners work among IDP (internally displaced persons) and refugee communities to promote peace, education, gender equity, reproductive and sexual health awareness and labor rights. The military junta that has been in power in Burma since 1962 has severely repressed civil society and threatens humanitarian efforts. Yet in spite of this repression, AJWS's partners have courageously carried out humanitarian projects, even when faced with security threats on the ground.