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Sham Election in Burma Must be Rejected

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[10 November 2010, Bangkok] – Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) denounces the statement of Vietnam, the current ASEAN Chair, welcoming the election in Burma as “a significant step forward in the implementation of the 7-point Roadmap for Democracy”. FORUM-ASIA believes that the credibility of Burma’s election has long been lost even before it was held.

A free and fair election is crucial for a country to move towards genuine democracy, but the 7 November election cannot be described as such. The framework provided by the 2008 Constitution of Burma guarantees continued dominance and impunity by the military by allocating one quarter of unelected seats in the legislative body to the military. The political party registration law banned persons who had been previously imprisoned from becoming members of political parties or contesting polls, which effectively disqualified many members of the opposition, including the leaders of the National League for Democracy and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. More than 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail and could not participate freely in the election. The regime also imposed a 500,000 kyat (1,000 USD) fee for candidates to run in the election, which is exorbitant considering that Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world. Ethnic nationalities in Burma that fight for self-determination were prevented from participating in the election. More than 3,000 villages in ethnic nationality areas have also been excluded from the electoral exercise because of continuing conflict.

Both Vietnam and China have conveniently chosen to ignore the widespread irregularities and intimidation that took place prior to the election. And because the Burmese junta has resisted all suggestions of independent election monitoring, the statements of the governments of these two countries are baseless and unfounded.

The right to democratic governance include the right to universal and equal suffrage, the right of political participation, including equal opportunity for all citizens to become election candidates and the right to choose governmental system through constitutional or other democratic means. “On what basis can two countries that do not provide the right to universal suffrage to its own citizens claim that the election in Burma is a significant steps towards democracy?” asked Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

FORUM-ASIA calls on the Chair of ASEAN to be abide by the ASEAN Charter that stipulates the adherence “to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. We strongly believe that the statement of the Chair of ASEAN does not reflect the aspiration of the peoples in ASEAN.  ASEAN should reject the sham election until a free and fair election is held in Burma.

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