Monday, February 2, 2009

Truth about delaying 2010 elections

By Moe Thu and Htet Win

(Mizzima) -A general election proposed by the military government to be held in 2010 is likely to put off, not because of some reasons it has come up with, but because of its motive to prolong staying in power, according to sources close to regime.

"A government minister hinted about the junta's continuation in power for 10 more years in the late 1990s, and it turned out to be true," said a long-time Burma watcher. "Besides, army officers can't whimsically say those things about delayed elections, as they must have been instructed along this line from above," he added.

There was last Thursday a media report carried by Thailand based Shan Herald, quoting informed sources as saying that a high ranking military officer said the proposed 2010 elections could be put off for several reasons including the fact -- disruptive activities by dissidents both inside and outside the country .

Lieutenant-Colonel Tin Maung Shwe, the military commander in southern Shan State did not elaborate. Referring to the government's consecutive inability to unearth culprits in several recent bombings in the commercial city Rangoon, a local business writer said the military government was mostly believed to create such disruptive activities, while continuously blaming political opponents inside and outside the country.

"The government usually blames them, but never comes up with any evidence," the Yangon-based writer said, adding that the junta was itself creating an unstable situation in Burma for the sake of military power.

Another informed source based in Naypyitaw said the military government conducted a training programme to produce several dozens of instigators.

"Probably, it is under a unit with the Ministry of Home Affairs," the source said.

"Using such instigators, the military government has planned to spark communal riots between Bamar and local Indian community (known as Kular) in a couple of months, a means the Burmese military government uses to divert the general public's political/development attention," the source said.

Whatever means [it] would be used in order to postpone any elections as long as the process favours the army, the sources said.

The military government's motive is to stay in power.

"Military-dominant governments so far -- Burma Socialist Programme Party and State Peace and Development Council -- would have reformed the country's leadership, if they really loved the country," said a young Burmese academic.

"They continue to create just a show-off area of development, but the people will continue to suffer. The haves will have more. The have-nots will lose more," he said.

He said the poor would not only be materially impoverished but also intellectually. The poor may only get a few trickle-down benefits. Aides and investments may finally flow in, but Burma will remain a sweat shop with little respect for human rights, labour rights, and political dissent, "

That is the way any military government has tried to tone down the general public's urge for a democratic leadership, a change in high demand in Burma.

Another thing that bars the change from taking place is that the government's ambivalence to include what kinds of representatives in a future parliament.

Major General Htay Oo, the Secretary General of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, whose patron is the Sr. Gen Than Shwe, the head of the junta, is said to be upset with the lack of reliable civilian partners in the future parliament.

And the Third Force that is referred to individuals inside Burma, who are seeking their own ways to a democracy, argues that the army needs civilian collaborators to make changes. They argue that those military-turned-civilians will need civilian partners who are willing to cooperate. Corporation of the moderate people from both sides will solve out the dilemma in evolution but to accept the junta road map. However, they admit that there is still risk and the every decision is now only from Than Shwe.

Meanwhile, the army does not trust veteran politicians that pursue conventional ways forward. Some of the veteran politicians are those in the scene in the late 1940s.

Regarding one of the four reasons that could delay the coming elections -- tension with Bangladesh over gas exploration, the Rangoon-based writer said it was just an excuse.

"It is a routine between or among countries, which most countries work out through a pragmatic approach, taking time," he said, adding that the two countries' maritime dispute need not be an issue to postpone the elections.

Another person, familiar with the relation between the two countries, said Burma was on the right side for most border and immigrant issues.

"However, Burma has political and/or image problems in the international arena, and its neighbour Bangladesh is intent on exploiting the situation," he said.

He said Rohingya were no less a problem for Bangladesh than Burma, and Bangladeshis had also mistreated them. And both countries are yet to identify how many and which Rohingya are from either. Some are Bengali economic refugees.

The other two reasons the military government has made up are: Incomplete census and problems in the drug eradication programme.

For those, the military government refuses time and again more assistance from the international community, who is willing to offer so.

Another reason, cease-fire ethnic groups, particularly Wa and Kachin are refusing to surrender arms and only later announced their agreement on the 2010 election plan.

United State Wa Army or UWSA is the armed wing of United State Party with an estimated 20,000 soldiers. Wa started mentioning "Wa State Government Special Region" in their official papers amidst the Burmese government wanting them to continue as " Shan State Special Region 2".

Kachin Independence Organization itself will not take part in elections but there will be a political party of the Kachin state at least to contest in the elections.

Pa Os have not made an official statement in 2010.

However, Aung Kham Hti of Pa O gets on well with the regime. He is even one of the patrons of USDA Southern Shan State. His group is called PaO National Army (PNA).

Meanwhile, some more major nationalities including Chin, Mon and Shan are yet to be organised to come along with the junta's political road map.

Regarding the Shan front, the junta in 1990s begun exercising a divide-and-rule approach on Shan state.

"The military government has favoured Pa Os population at the detriment of the Shans in areas like Taunggyi, the capital of the Shan stae," the long-time watcher said.

He said there was Pa O-Shan rivalry in southern Shan state, adding that Pa Os, except red Pa O that borders the Karenni State, never got on well with the Shans.

It is head of state Than Shwe's hypocritical announcement that Burma is building a modernised nation based on national unity.

The process of the elections laws should have been made by now, in order to allow political parties to be prepared.

There was talk in circles close to the military government around last August that election laws would have been prescribed by the end of last year. So far it is yet to be done.

Whatever reasons the junta is coming up with, it is found failing to take up a workable option, which must include all stake-holders such as the political opposition groups, cease-fire groups and civilians. That way, many more problems are in front awaiting the military elite and the 55-million-population of the country.

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