Pro-junta Election Candidates Told to Nurture Good Public Relations

The Burmese military government is reportedly urging potential pro-junta candidates, particularly members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), to nurture good public relations ahead of the 2010 general election.

According to sources close to the USDA, high ranking officials are issuing guidelines telling junta supporters considering standing in the election to develop good relations with the electorate. They should “act in a friendly way with the people, even with opponents,” one source said.

Since the end of 2008, the USDA has been selecting possible election candidates from among its members and leading members of the community.

The USDA has also been working on its own public image by undertaking construction projects in many communities across the country.

This week, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) changed its regulation barring members from involvement in politics.
The decision, taken at the union’s annual general meeting in Naypyidaw, gives the green light to leading businessmen who want to participate in the election, according to observers.

Although the law governing the 2010 election is not expected to be announced before May or June, pro-junta groups have been making their preparations. Twenty five pro-junta politicians recently formed a network of individual candidates.

The junta head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, offered his perspective on the election in an Armed Forces Day speech on March 27.

“Political parties need to have their campaigns grounded in a commitment to non-disintegration of the union and non-disintegration of national solidarity,” he said.

Political parties should avoid “inciting unrest…personal attacks and smear campaigns” and practice tolerance, forgiveness and understanding in their campaigns.

Than Shwe said factionalism among political parties posed a serious threat to the country and a “danger of disintegration of the union,” Than Shwe said.

The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has not yet announced whether it will participate in the 2010 election. The NLD has called for a review of the constitution, which provides for the holding of the election.

Aung Thar Aung, an Arakan leader, said the democracy process in Burma would be impossible without a review of the constitution. “How can we build a democratic nation under this constitution?” he asked.

The constitution reserves 25 percent of the parliamentary seats for the military.

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