NLD-LA Malaysia representatives hold nationwide 2010 election seminar

Wed 03 Feb 2010, IMNA, Khatter Non
The National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA) Malaysia is currently in the midst of a cross-country educational campaign targeted at Burmese migrant workers living in the country, regarding the upcoming 2010 Burmese elections and the 2008 constitutional referendum.

NLD-LA representatives began leading seminars on January 15th of this year at various locations around peninsular Malaysia, meeting with groups of Burmese migrant workers at township halls in strategic locations. Group members informed IMNA that the seminars are aimed at educating Burmese citizens about the Burmese political process, and preparing them to make informed decisions in the 2010 elections.

“When we go to a place to hold a meeting, an NLD-LA member in the region begins preparing 2 or 3 weeks before we come. This member is in charge of getting the meeting hall, telling people about the date and time of the discussion about the 2010 election, and distributing brochures. If there are no NLD-LA members in an area, we ask a well-know worker in the community, and ask him to be in charge of the preparations,” NLD-LA Malaysia chairman U Kyaw Kyaw told IMNA in a phone interview. U Kyaw Kyaw explained to IMNA’s reporter that when MND-LA representatives hold the discussions, they explain to attendees why the 2010 elections likely will not be free and fair. Representatives cite the example of the 1990 Burmese elections, when the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the popular vote but the Burmese government refused to transfer power to the party. Reportedly, the discussions also includes an explanation about why the 2010 elections do not guarantee increased rights for the Burmese people, and information about the 2008 constitutional referendum.

According to U Kyaw Kyaw, roughly 500,000 from Burma currently live in Malaysia. At the beginning of the campaign, attendance at the seminars was relatively low; turnout has upped over the last two weeks, and currently the NLD-LA claims that 20,000 Burmese migrant workers across Malaysia have attended the meetings.

According Ko Zaw Myo, a Burmese worker who attended the NLD-LA meeting in Parsigutan Township, in Malaysia’s Jahor State, “On the 24th of January, the NLD-LA Malaysia chairman came, and he discussed the 2008 constitution and the 2010 elections. There was some information that we [the migrant workers] did not know about, for example that in democratic countries, the government’s power comes from the people; [we also didn’t know that] in Burma’s parliament, 25% of the seats are for the arm, and that the government will manipulate the remaining 75% to win the election. [We learned that] if we want to redo the constitution, we need that 75% of the votes.”

Reportedly, 120 of the 400 Burmese migrant workers living in Jahor State attended the Parsigutan Township meeting. According to Ko Zaw Myo, many attendees left the seminar resolving to share their newfound knowledge with their fellow workers.

“We are supposed to inform other workers who don’t know about this [the information about the 2010 elections and the constitution] through mail and online, and we will distribute brochures with this information to workers starting on the 7th of February, but right now we do not know which newspaper we will use to advertise information about this.” he said.

The NLD-LA informed IMNA that the organization has worked hard to accommodate the work schedules of their migrant worker audience, holding meetings at night when necessary. Meetings held on Sunday, during workers’ small amounts of free time, are held in a more leisurely manner; the attendee group is often divided into 4 smaller sub-groups, and discussions are moved to more pleasant locations.

U Kyaw Kyaw explained “The main reason [we want to have these meetings now] is that some workers must leave the country and go back to Burma in August, when their work permits expire. When they arrive there [Burma] they can discuss what they have learned [at these seminars] about the 2008 constitution with their families and neighbors, this is how understanding [about Burmese politics] can come to the people.”

He informed IMNA that the NLD will act in accordance with the Statement of Shawgonethine issued in April 2009, which states that if the Burmese government alters the 2008 constitution and makes Burma’s political system democratic, the NLD will consider joining the 2010 elections; without any constitutional changes, the NLD will boycott.

“In Thailand we can’t do [meetings] like they do in Malaysia, because in Thailand we have more Burmese workers than Malaysia. But the constitution of 2008 does not help the people, this constitution is just for the SPDC, even if the constitution is amended it will still be for the Burmese generals. We also have ethnic cease-fire groups in Burma, we should see what they think. Whatever they say, the 2010 election is for the government, it is very clear,” U Nyo Ohn Myint, NLD secretary of foreign affairs in Thailand, said to IMNA.

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