Burma’s Democracy Movement Enters into the New Playing Field by Winning at least 39 Seats in the By-Lection, Yet Still Full of Landmines, Barriers, and Biased-Referees (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
April 1, 2012 Morning in Washington, DC, USA: April 1, 2012 Night in Rangoon, Burma
Media Contact: Thelma Young at (208) 599 2169

Note: Unofficial Results of the By-Election Enclosed Below the Statement.

(Washington, DC, April 1, 2012: Rangoon, April 1, 2012)  Burma’s democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said during a press conference on March 30, 2012 “What has been happening in this country is really beyond what is acceptable for a democratic election. Still, we are determined to go forward because we think that is what our people want.” She offered a detailed explanation of fraudulent acts and irregularities being conducted by the ruling party of Burma, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by President U Thein Sein and backed by the country’s powerful military, during the by-election campaign. From this neither by-election held today, that had been declared beforehand neither free nor fair, we have learned that the NLD has won at least 39 out of 44 seats it contested. Some results are not yet. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson of the NLD and the leader of Burma’s democracy movement, was elected from Kawt-Hmu Township Constituency in Rangoon Region with a resounding majority of votes and became a Member of Parliament at the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House).

Even President U Thein Sein and Union Election Commission Chairman U Tin Aye claimed repeatedly that this by-election would be held in a free and fair manner; nevertheless, the campaign period and the Election Day were overshadowed by USDP members’ vandalizing NLD campaign posters, padding electoral registers, intimidation including two attempts to injure NLD candidates with catapulted projectiles, vote buying, and disturbing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign rallies. President U Thein Sein and his cabinet ministers travelled all over the country and urged the people to vote for their candidates, which is in violation of the 2008 Constitution and the Election Law. Although international observers and media were invited to watch the polling, they didn’t have enough time to organize efficient monitoring in a short period of time (five days only) and media were only allow to watch 500 yards away from the polling stations. The Union Election Commission claimed that due to the security concern, it has postponed voting in three constituencies in Kachin State. However, people believe that the major reason for the postponement is to stop international observers and media visiting Kachin State, where they can observe the situation of tens of thousands of refugees affected by the ongoing civil war.

This by-election was only for 43 seats, or 6.5% of the 664-seat Union Parliament, and therefore the power balance in the Union Parliament does not change at all. The USDP and the military still together hold more than 80% of the seats in the Union Parliament and have the power to kill any constitutional amendments that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow democratic MPs will propose. However, U Thein Sein’s regime has high expectations that the United States and the European Union will reward them generously for bringing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), into their super-controlled political system. They will now claim that their system is all-party inclusive and legitimate and ask the U.S. and EU to lift sanctions.

Aung Din, Executive Directive of USCB and a former political prisoner from Burma said, “The United States and EU should not reward the regime simply because the NLD has some seats in the Parliament. They should wait until we see clearly how these newly elected MPs are treated by the USDP and the military in the Parliament.” He also said “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has entered into a new playing field with good faith that she can work with President U Thein Sein, Parliament Speaker U Shwe Mann and Military Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, to make the country better, more prosperous and democratic. But this new playing field is not level; it is full of landmines, barriers and biased-referees. The United States and EU should reaffirm their consistent support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s democracy movement by sending a clear message to the regime that their failure to cooperate with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the Parliament will not be acceptable.”

Since mid of last year, the Burmese regime has initiated some positive changes in Burma, including releasing more than five hundred political prisoners, revising the political party registration law to pave the way for the NLD to re-register, allowing workers to form labor unions and people to stage peaceful protests, relaxing some media restrictions, initiating peace talks with ethnic armed resistance groups, and promising to end forced-labor practice. However, these measures are not enough to convince people that these reforms are sustainable and irreversible. The regime still keeps hundreds of political prisoners behind bars; the military is still exists above the law and perpetrate human rights abuses and crimes against humanity with unchecked power and blanket impunity; armed clashes between the military and some ethnic groups continue in Kachin and Northern Shan State; numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons continues to grow; unfair laws and orders as well as a corrupt judiciary system is still active; land confiscation and rights abuses against farmers and workers by the cronies and the authorities has been unstoppable.

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