Authentic Reconciliation Demanded Before 2010 Burma Polls

On International Human Rights Day this week, a number of civil society and advocacy groups from Burma and other parts of the world came together with consensus in demanding a genuine political reconciliation before the proposed general election the Southeast Asian country and to release all political prisoners including the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a combined statement, over one hundred organizations based in different parts of the globe urged an inclusive dialogue with key pro-democracy stakeholders, ethnic nationalities and also a comprehensive review of the 2008 Constitution designed by the military rulers of Burma.

It also asked for immediate cessation of systematic human rights abuses and criminal hostilities against ethnic groups, political activists, journalists and civil society workers in the country. “We reaffirm the necessity for genuine political reconciliation before the 2010 elections and call on the international community to take immediate action to ensure viable democratic change occurs in Burma. The people of Burma are entitled to have a genuine choice and the international community has an obligation to ensure that the people get this choice,” said the statement endorsed by influential organizations like Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma), Burma Partnership, Burma Campaign UK, Burma Centre Delhi, Burma Lawyers Council, Burmese American Democratic Alliance, Ethnic Nationalities Council, Shwe Gas Movement, Women League of Chin-land etc.

Even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21) said that the ‘will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’, the military regime named State Peace Development Council continues to use coercive measures to hold onto power. “Activists, community leaders, journalists, and monks continue to be arrested and harassed for voicing independent thought.

Villages continue to be subjected to crimes against humanity under the regime’s brutal policy of controlling ethnic communities. The regime continues to manipulate the political sphere in order to secure their victory in the 2010 elections – based on the 2008 Constitution that was crafted by the military regime in order to perpetuate impunity and prolong their hold on power,” the statement added.

The groups were in apprehension that ‘if the election is allowed to go ahead without these changes, it would only serve to institutionalize one-party rule, with military still holding the strings of power’. Even in the unlikely event that the elections are free and fair, they will not bring any real change to Burma because the fundamentally flawed Constitution that allocates vast powers to military, lacks any checks and balances, allows for the ongoing discrimination and persecution of ethnic nationalities, gender discrimination, and lacks protection of human rights, the statement asserted.

The statement, which was also supported by Actions Birmanie – Brussels, All Burma Democratic Lusei Women Organization, Arakan League for Democracy (Exile – India), Arakan Liberation Party, ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples, Austrian Burma Center, Burma Aktion Germany, Burma Campaign Australia, Burmese Women’s Union, Chin Students and Youth Federation, Chin Women Organization, Danish Burma Committee, Dictator Watch, All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines), International Federation for Human Rights, Karen Women’s Organization, Kuki Women Human Rights Organization, Naga National League for Democracy, People’s Forum on Burma (Japan), Student Federation of Thailand etc concluded urging ‘the international community to be united in their support for the will of the people of Burma, and act with firm resolve not to allow this sham election to proceed until national reconciliation is realized’.

Meanwhile on the same day, ignoring the warning from the military junta, the National League for Democracy organized a meeting at their main Rangoon office to celebrate the International Human Rights Day on December 10, stated in a release from the office of Burma Partnership Secretariat. Similarly, in Rangoon, the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, 88 Generation Students, and All Burma Federation of Student Union released a statement urging the international community not to recognize the 2010 elections unless there has been sustainable political dialogue with democratic opposition and ethnic nationalities, and national reconciliation beforehand.

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.