Tue 6 Oct 2009
Filed under: Inside Burma
New Delhi – The Chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Council in exile, a coalition of ethnic political organisations, on Monday made it abundantly clear that the Council’s position does not support the Burmese military junta’s 2010 elections plans.
The clarification by Khu Hte Bu Phe, Chairman of the ENC, came days after a letter sent in the name of the Council to US Senator James Webb, a strong advocate of engagement with the Burmese regime, before hosting of a Congressional hearing on Burma.
The letter, signed by the Secretary General of the ENC and dated September 28, explained to the US Senator of ENC’s position on the Burmese junta’s 2010 election plans saying, in principle the ethnics in Burma do not accept the 2008 constitution and the forthcoming 2010 elections.
But since the citizens of Burma will be forced to cast their votes, the ENC’s short-term policy is to support eligible ethnic groups in running for office in the 2010 in order to ensure that ethnics will have a voice in Burma’s politics and to allow ethnics to participate in governance and development of their homeland, the letter said.
In the long-term, the letter said, ENC hopes to work on developing a civil society that could hold an elected government accountable to the people.
But the ENC chairman, in his statement on Monday denied knowledge of the letter sent to Senator Webb and said the Council does not accept the junta’s 2008 constitution and 2010 elections.
“It [the council] has already adopted a position that it will not oppose or attack ethnic organizations and individuals wanting to contest the elections, or the people who will vote in the elections,” said Khu Hte Bu Phe.
“This is, therefore, to let all know that the letter to Senator Webb is not the position of ENC…” Khu Hte Bu Phe said.
Meanwhile, on Monday the National Democratic Front, a coalition of ethnic armed resistance groups, in a statement said the group reaffirms its position expressly rejecting the junta’s 2010 elections, which will be based on the 2008 constitution that is adopted by force and fraudulent means.
The NDF said, the junta’s elections will neither resolve the political crisis faced by the Burmese people nor will it lead to national reconciliation and democracy but is a process that will turn Burma into a further ‘failed state’ and allow continuance of the junta.
“We regard the reactionary political wind blowing at home and abroad, viewing the 2008 constitution and the 2010 elections as ‘something that is better than nothing’ and promoting the attitude to “take whatever opportunity is available’ as merely an attempt to sanitize the SPDC and perpetuate the existence of military dictatorship,” said the NDF, referring to the junta by its official name – State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
The statement also said, the junta’s threat to use force on ceasefire groups, which have rejected their proposal to transform into Border Guard Forces, shows the junta’s unwillingness to solve ethnic issues peacefully.
“We the NDF would like to earnestly urge the entire people to explicitly oppose the 2010 elections of the SPDC…,” the statement said.
Similarly, the Karen National Union (KNU), the longest surviving insurgent group in Burma, on Monday issued a statement saying the ENC’s letter to Senator Webb, which is “appearing to state that the SPDC’s elections due in 2010 could present some kind of opportunity for change, has caused some confusion.”
“We would like to reaffirm our statement of April 24, 2009 that elections due in 2010 do not represent any kind of progress towards democratization in Burma,” said the KNU, which is also a member of the NDF.
David Takarpaw, Vice-Chairman of the KNU and also holding the Chairmanship of the NDF, in an interview said, the KNU as well as the NDF are in a position to reject the junta’s 2008 constitution and the forthcoming 2010 elections as the junta has made no progress to prove that the elections would be free and fair.
“With the 2008 constitution not being amended, political prisoners still remaining behind bars, and no freedom of association and campaigning, the elections cannot bring any progress,” David Takarpaw said.
He said, without such conditions being implemented, even if the ethnics join the election, the nature of the 2008 constitution does not guarantee the rights for ethnic groups.
The KNU also urged the international community not to be content regarding the junta’s elections plans and not to “wait and see” as the election plan will only escalate repression and instability.