Burma elections – a campaign and a demonstration at Speakers’ Corner

MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore) had on 8th September 2010 raised our concerns over the upcoming multi-party elections called by the Union Election Commission in Myanmar/Burma, with the Representative of Singapore to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights Mr R Richard Magnus.

We raised the following concerns about the elections, which are scheduled to take place on 7th November 2010:

  • Restrictions on campaigning are not being applied to all parties equally. Instead, only some of the political parties which are not affiliated with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is a proxy for the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the military, are subject to these restrictions.
  • All 17 Commissioners of the Union of Elections Commissions (UEC) are from the present ruling junta-led government. They are therefore not neutral and independent, and there are strong grounds to doubt if they have the ability or desire to ensure that the elections are run well, credible and fair.
  • Many political prisoners – estimated at about 2,000 – remain behind bars, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung Suu Kyi, thereby unfairly limiting the choices for the people of Myanmar/Burma.
  • The lack of press freedom in the country.
  • The mere fact that the officers of the present military government intend to exchange their military uniforms for civilian attire, does not necessarily mean that there will be any substantive change or that the fundamental tenets of democracy will be implemented or upheld.

MARUAH drew attention to the concerns expressed by 12 elections monitoring organisations in a joint statement entitled “Asian Elections Monitoring Organizations Questions Unfair Practices in the Burma Electoral Process” (dated 31 August 2010[i]), which revealed the weaknesses in the current approach to the elections:

  1. The military is overly involved in the elections.
  2. The media is not free and is subject to censorship, being under the total control of the military government.
  3. There is a lack of transparency in absentee voting, advance voting and the counting of ballot papers, especially given the restriction on local observers.
  4. There is an absence of a mechanism to check voter lists to prevent vote-rigging, such as phantom voters and double or multiple votes.

Myanmar/Burma is a member of our ASEAN family, and it is the collective responsibility of ASEAN to help it make progress towards peace and democracy. It is time for ASEAN members to support the United Nation’s Commission of Inquiry into the War Crimes in Myanmar/Burma[ii], and to join the international community in calling for the present military government to take the following actions:

  • Free all political prisoners
  • Allow international observers from the United Nations to watch over the election process
  • Remove all laws and regulations that interfere with free and fair elections

MARUAH is organising a postcard campaign, and a demonstration at the Speakers’ Corner, based on the theme of ‘a vote…but choice?’, to allow the citizens and permanent residents of Singapore to raise the same concerns with the government of Singapore. The details of the demonstration are:

Event: a vote…but change? A call for rigour in Myanmar/Burma elections
Place: Speakers’ Corner (Hong Lim Park)
Date: 30 October 2010
Time: 5pm
Speakers: Braema Mathi, Siew Kum Hong, Choo Zheng Xi, Leong Sze Hian
Moderator: Ravi Philemon

The demonstration will culminate with the participants signing the postcards voicing their concerns to the government of Singapore, asking the government of Singapore to press the Myanmar/Burma government to exercise rigour in their coming elections.

Those that are unable to attend the demonstration in Speakers’ Corner may also download the postcard at this link: http://tiny.cc/ik2bh.  The downloaded postcards can be mailed to the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the address indicated in the postcard, or it can be emailed to [email protected]

[i] http://www.scribd.com/doc/36882413/ASIAN-Election-Monitoring-Organizations-question-unfair-practices-in-the-Burma-Electoral-process

[ii] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/17/AR2010081706026.html