Myanmar election a total farce

It seems the military junta in Myanmar (Burma) will not listen to anything the opposition says, and has every intention of rushing into the planned general election as things stand. This is no time for the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to be sitting idly by.

The election will be the first in two decades, but Myanmar’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has announced it would boycott the poll.

This is mainly because democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not allowed to take part in the election.

The opposition party said it made a voluntary decision in response to Suu Kyi’s call, but in reality it was the military junta that drove the party to such a state.

The military regime banned the electoral participation of those married to foreign nationals, or those being imprisoned. Even if she were to be released from house arrest, it is now impossible for Suu Kyi to take part in the general election.

The NLD’s boycott must have been just what the junta wanted. The junta’s plan seems to be to create many pro-junta parties that include “opposition groups” by early May, the deadline for party registration. Under that scenario, the junta would easily win the general election expected in October.

Of course, such a general election will be nothing more than a complete farce.

The junta fears that if a free election is held with the NLD participating, there will be a nationwide popular revolt against the military dictatorship. The fact that the junta is so afraid of such an outcome is tantamount to a confession of just how empty and vacuous its power actually is.

To begin with, the rules of this general election are full of holes. In the two houses of the bicameral legislature, a quarter each of the seats are to be given to members of the military. And the president, chosen by the legislature, must effectively be from the military ranks, past or present.

If the military regime truly seeks stability and prosperity of its country, then it should immediately resume dialogue with Suu Kyi and open the path toward the NLD’s participation in the general election. The NLD is also in danger of disbanding. We hope the party will reconsider its future strategy.

That is why pressure from the international community will be even more important.

During the Cold War, Western countries supported even dictatorships as long as they claimed to be “anti-communist.” Now that this ideology-based, East-West bloc conflict has dissipated, the international community should stop turning a blind eye toward the unreasonable behavior of a dictatorial regime.

Still, there remain countries that support the junta. China is highly responsible in this regard. It is increasing its support of the Myanmar junta with things like the construction of natural gas pipelines.

If China seeks to gain political influence commensurate with its rising economic presence in the international community, it should not be helping to prolong the lifespan of the junta.

With far more vigor than Liberal Democratic Party-led governments, the Hatoyama administration has demanded Myanmar hold fair and free elections, but with no results. The administration needs to take stronger action, such as intensifying talks with Southeast Asian countries and China, or actually sending Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada there.

A sham general election will only drive the country further away from democracy. For the 50 million people whose liberty has been stripped by the junta, such an outcome will be just too cruel.

–The Asahi Shimbun, April 4

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