Fraud, voter intimidation mar Burma vote

By South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel, wires

Updated 2 hours 34 minutes ago

Allegations of fraud and voter intimidation are overshadowing Burma’s first election in 20 years.

The allegations are not unexpected. Burma’s military leaders may have resigned to become civilians ahead of the poll but the lead up to the election has been rife with manipulation to make sure the junta’s party wins.

Election laws have banned the key opposition, ruled out some ethnic groups and quarantined a quarter of the parliament for the military.

Now there are allegations that voters have been threatened with job losses or even loss of citizenship if they do not vote for the ruling party.

Foreign media and observers have been banned from Burma for the election so its unclear how many people are voting.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s banned opposition has urged people to boycott the poll.

About 40,000 polling stations opened early this morning across Burma.

Three parties have made complaints about fraud, including one of the pro-military parties.

Britain’s ambassador in Burma, Andrew Heyn, says he does not think the elections are a sign of real change.

“There’s nothing in these elections themselves that could give us grounds for optimism,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean we turn our backs and walk away. We continue to press for progress after the elections and if that progress happens, we will of course welcome it. But in and of themselves, these elections don’t mark a step for progress.”

In Australia for ministerial talks, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton says the elections again expose the abuses of the country’s military rulers.

Ms Clinton says the people of Burma deserve better.

“We hope that perhaps out of these elections some leaders will emerge who know that Burma has to take a different track, that they cannot continue to do the same thing, and realise the potential of their people,” she said.

The election is the first since 1990, when pro-democracy candidates won by a landslide, a result ignored by the military junta which has ruled Burma for almost 50 years.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 7:11 pm

    In SEA…Burmise are so helpless under a powerful corrupted dictatorial military rule.
    We can read and feel sorry for a legendary freedom fighters like Aung San Suu Kyi..fighting freedom even longer than Mendela .
    Mahathir did this in Malaysia for 22 years and on going ….but Malaysians are luckier that the military is not taking sides.
    And we have so much problems to solve in our country…that talking about Burma and can do nothing…one may as well offer prayers instead of talking so much… when cannot help…why talk so much?
    However…it was from talks from all over the world humans that caught powerful politicians attentions and take note of Burma.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 10:06 pm

    ///Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s banned opposition has urged people to boycott the poll/// – Zoe Daniel of ABC/Reuters.

    The Nobel Laureate need not urge people to boycott – nor, the opposite, urge them to support the poll. No one doubts that with ¼ of seats in parliament reserved for the military Suu Kyi and other key leaders of opposition/civil society banned from participating in the polls and 2,200 political prisoners still languishing in incarceration, this election will ever conform to internationally accepted standards of free and democratic elections. Yet the military junta has taken a step, which to them is a big step and let it not be said by it, as an excuse, that it allowed for elections but people didn’t want or not ready for it.

    We’re talking about a country of 48 million in the vice grip of a military junta of about 480,000 comprising the generals the armed forces, including the police and the intelligence agencies and their drug courtiers and barons/cronies….Although Suu Kyi and other key leaders of her opposition party are banned from standing for elections, other political parties are not. If 99% of Myanmar populace, who cannot have an armed revolution to evict the junta, are also not going to give ‘a go’ at the ballot box (no matter how rigged), on whom else are they are going to look for reprieve and national salvation from this 1% oppressive albeit powerful group?

    ASEAN leaders are not going to help beyond making high-faluting moral statements about human rights and democracy that they can’t even uphold within their own national backyards. They are keener on business and making Money – how their national corporations can sell M16 to Myanmar’s armed forces, help explore and extract, lay pipe lines for 90 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves from Myanmar’s Yadana37 and Yetagun gas fields, provide safe havens from the generals’ laundered money and assets etc.

    The US and European countries are not helping besides trade sanctions, which are ineffective as Myanmar’s exports to the U.S. and EU amounted to less than 4 percent of total overseas sales. The US has no pretext to invade like in the case of Iraq as its vital geopolitical interest in oil pipe lines is not in this region. China instead depends on Myanmar for its growing energy needs, has an interest in investing in pipeline and hydropower projects in Myanmar amounting to US$8.2 billion and China National Petroleum Corp. already started construction on oil and gas pipelines that traverse the whole of Myanmar. Lobbying the United nations for action against Myanmar military junta is not viable if China being a permanent Security Council member vetoes any UN’s initiatives in that direction.

    It is a sad fact of life that people in any country is responsible for their own fate: if they are oppressed they have to use bullets or ballot to remove their oppressors. No one will help beyond lip service. As I said, if bullets are not used, then try the ballot no matter how rigged and skewed. You’ve got nothing to lose! If 48 million people can’t do anything againstr 1% of its own, who else can help?

    Go out and vote. See what happens first. To preemptively tell the people not to vote is defeatist. Suu Kyi, to tell the people to try the option of ballot is, in the absence of alternatives, not the same as necessarily implying that you are legitimizing the elections as fair or democratic. After all you yourself are banned from standing as a candidate!

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 10:38 pm

    ///Fraud, voter intimidation mar Burma vote///

    We don’t have to look far. Malaysian elections are no different from Burma’s albeit such menace occurs at a less severe scale.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 11:42 pm

    After all how many ASEAN countries can boast really free and democratic elections with level playing field being afforded to opposition parties?

    In varying degrees fraud voter & Opposition intimidation, gerrymandering, control of press money politics, repressive security agencies and laws are order of the day at least amongst many of the ASEAN neighbours talking big way about “democracy” to Myanmar’s military junta.

    Here the argument is if the Myanmar Military Junta concedes to an election based on a constitution with parliamentary system, then no matter how tainted by elements of control still preserved by the military elites, the transition from military rule to a system of civilian representation still represents an important milestone that Aung San Suu Kyi’s banned opposition should exploit than urge people to boycott the poll!

    Don’t forget that taking Indonesia’s case, in 1965 the Military Junta deposed Sukarno from power with Suharto as Army Chief-of-Staff taking over power. Somehow the military junta there could make the transition to civilian rule. Though in the beginning the Army generals also dominated parliament but today we speak of Indonesia in positive tones of how comparatively enlightened the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is and how effective its anti corruption commission (KPK) is in combating corruption. However in 1997 Lt Gen Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the Chief of the Armed Forces Social and Political Affairs Staff of the Indonesian military junta.

    Thailand itself flip flops between military rule and civil rule. Before 1992 military junta ruled then in 1992 civilian protests forced military to return to barracks, then they came back again in 2006 when mass protests against the Thai Rak Thai party’s alleged corruption prompted the military to stage a coup d’état against Thaksin. Then a general election in December 2007 restored a civilian government, but the legacy of the Thai military’s frequent involvement in domestic politics remains even today – so what’s the problem?

    Expecting the first tentative steps by Myanmar Military to civilian rule without it holding a trump card – expecting 100% free elections and total abandonment of power by military elites of the power they have always enjoyed 100% is an unrealistic expectation on Suu Kyi’s opposition party’s part.

    It is through this kind of initial half baked democratic farce of a ballot cooked up by the Military that one hopes Myanmar’s populace will slowly through participation in such a system and by combination of learning democratic rights exert sufficient pressure on the flawed system to improve its democratic features and over time keep the military eventually out of politics.

    The transition from military to civilian rule has to be a painstaking piece meal step by step process.

    Short of a violent confrontation with military with many loss of lives, Myanmar’s Opposition can’t just expect to tear down overnight a military edifice and replace it with democratic institutions.

    Civilian rule has to evolve, and this election is the first streak of dawn after a long dark night of 100% military rule. Don’t just boycott it.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 11:51 pm

    No fraud, no intimidation here, in fact got helpful advice 2 voters here
    Mayb in d 2 recently concluded buy erctions, voters were told by BN members n agents dat if u DON’T like BN, put a cross X against d BN candidate
    As Hillary enthusiastically stated M’sia boleh, apa apa pun boleh lah

  6. #6 by k1980 on Monday, 8 November 2010 - 7:56 am

    Don’t just point fingers at others, look at your own country first. Isn’t the above envelope containing $$$ election fraud? Make sure your own country practices democracy before you accuse other countries of being undemocratic.
    Don’t be like the Americans who accuse others of human rights abuses, but they themselves are slaughtering thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians in iraq and afgan day in and day out.

  7. #7 by undertaker888 on Monday, 8 November 2010 - 8:56 am

    the ABC got it all wrong. It is not Burma, but Malaysia.

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