Friday, November 05, 2010

Day 100 in Mae Sot: Everybody's gearing up for the election (or not, as it was)
2 more days! Then our neighbouring country, Burma, is having its first democratic elections since 1990, when the NLD (National League for Democracy) won an absolute majority resulting in their leader, Daw Aung San Su Kyi to be imprisoned, who is currently - 20 years on - still under house arrest.
Most burmese nationals we know here are either excluded from voting, fear for their safety were they to travel back to cast their vote or have joined the NLD-supported boycott of the elections, some hope that the other opposition parties, for example the NDF (National Democratic Force), which split off from the NLD, will be able to continue on a slow political path towards true democracy by securing at least a few parliamentary seats.

The ruling SPDC - "State Peace and Development Council" which is the name of the current military regime, have retired a number of their senior military leaders, so - in coherence with the 1998 constitution (which, incidentally, has been agreed on in a proceedure which seems to have had a similar democratic value as the current elections) - they can head the only party contesting all seats in parliament, the USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party).

I'm not sure about Europe, but in Asia the upcoming elections do make the news every day:
One interviewee from the closest refugee camp to Mae Sot says he is speaking for many, who "see this election as a fixed political game. It's not going to be just, fair, clean or free and it will not lead the country to the road of democracy. It will give the military regime legitimacy, it will prolong military rule and lead the country to political instability." BBC Mobile News Asia-Pacific 04.11.2010

Some people discouraged by their lack of political options are taking to more desperate measures: The PAC (People Action Committee) is led by one of the leaders of the 1988 student uprising violently stopped by the army, Moethee Zun, and they are planning widespread protests on Sunday. "Asked if the PAC risked provoking violence in Burma, Moethee Zun’s reply was simple. “We are expecting that response,” he said. “We have no choice.” " Democratic Voice of Burma, 4.11.2010

And outside Burma? Here, across the Moei River we hear a lot of carefully voiced hopes for a democratic future for Burma, in which the migrants can return to their homes and families. But we also hear from people who have lost their hope: “I don’t believe in this election,” said Aung Aung, a 22-year-old hospitality worker in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. “Than Shwe wants to win. I think he will cheat. They’ve been cheating for 20 years up to today.”

"Most migrants are in Thailand illegally – and have no intention of risking the journey home to vote in an election widely dismissed as a sham aimed at keeping the military in power.

Moe Swe, of Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, said most Burmese in Mae Sot weren’t interested in the polls. “They know the election is not for them,” he said. “They won’t get any benefit… The Burmese people know the election is just about selecting Burmese generals.”DVB, 03.11.2010

Many people here hope that the world will take a close look at Burma this week, despite the country's regime's efforts to keep the world out.

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