US ‘deeply disappointed’ with Burma’s electoral law

(Mizzima) – The United States on Wednesday said it is ‘deeply disappointed’ with the junta’s electoral law, as it bars detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the more than 2,100 political prisoners and called it ‘a step in the wrong direction’.

Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, during a regular press briefing on Wednesday told reporters in Washington “We are deeply disappointed with the political party law, which excludes all of Burma’s more than 2,000 political prisoners from political participation.”

“We are also troubled that the law appears to bar the National League of Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from contesting. It may also prohibit her from membership in her own party,” Crowley said.

He said the political party registration law, the second of a series of laws announced, makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the forthcoming elections will be devoid of credibility.

According to the Burmese military junta’s Political Party Registration Law, political parties cannot have their members under detention, and must quit their membership, if the party wants to be registered.

It also bars prisoners and people who have been convicted and serving time under court sentence from running for office in the election.

Burma’s main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – has several of its members including party General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi under detention.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has served over 14 of the past 19 years in some form of detention. In August 2009 she was handed 18 months suspended sentence after being convicted for violating State Security Law by ‘harbouring’ an American, who swam across a lake and stayed at her house for two nights.

Similarly, the other laws including the Election of Member of Parliaments (Upper House) Law, restricts prisoners or those serving time under court sentence from being a candidate.

Answering a question on whether the US will accept the result of the Burmese elections, Crowley said, “No. We just – just we made clear that given the tenor of the election laws that they put forward, there’s no hope that this election will be credible.”

However, Crowley said, the US would continue its engagement with Burma but the junta must understand that this engagement is not an opportunity for Burma to advance.

“… in order to have that progress, it’s going to have to show some flexibility on its internal political process. And so far, those results are lacking,” he added.

The United States, after nearly two decades of imposing sanction and isolating Burma, took a different approach mixing engagement with sanctions last year. Following the policy shift, US officials and the Burmese regime met a couple of times.

Meanwhile, Rights groups and campaigners expressed concern over the Burmese junta’s electoral law that essentially bars Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners from taking part in the elections, which will be the first in the past two decades.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said, the Burmese regime’s electoral laws are designed to exclude the main opposition party and ensure a victory for the ruling junta.

“The new law’s assault on opposition parties is sadly predictable,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said in a press release. “It continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance of civilian rule with a military spine.”

Adams said, the junta’s electoral law requires the NLD to choose between participating in the elections and keeping its leader and hundreds of its unjustly imprisoned members.

“This is a choice that no political party should have to make and is a transparent attempt to knock the main opposition party out of the running,” Adams said.

Amnesty International also expressed concern over the junta’s electoral law saying it will further strip off the rights of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the elections.

AI urged the junta to withdraw the law and allow the more than 2,100 political prisoners to join the elections because the political prisoners are imprisoned simply for exercising their rights peacefully.

“Amnesty International is greatly concerned that activists are going to come under increased repression in the run up to the elections,” Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, said in a press release.

“The Myanmar [Burmese] authorities seem determined to stamp out any political challenge to their rule,” Zawacki said.

Similarly, international lawyer for detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Genser Jared said the junta’s electoral law clearly indicates their intent “to proceed down the path of holding flagrantly unfair and not free elections.”

“I am deeply disappointed though entirely not surprised,” said Jared adding “Not only was the substance of the new constitution deeply flawed, but the referendum where it was “adopted” was also fixed.”

“The only question remaining now is how the international community will respond to its will being flouted yet again by the Burmese junta,” he added.

While the US along with a few other countries have expressed their deep disappointment, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on  Wednesday said he takes note of the Burmese government’s announcement of the electoral laws for the 2010 general elections and is carefully studying it as it is being published.

“The indications available so far suggest that they do not measure up to the international community’s expectations of what is needed for an inclusive political process,” Ban said.

While the Burmese regime has already set the terms, the Secretary-General in a press release on Wednesday reiterated his call to the Burmese authorities to ensure an inclusive political process leading to fair, transparent and credible elections in which all citizens of Burma, including Aung San Suu Kyi, can freely participate.

 

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