NLD Votes No To Burma ‘Election’

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Monday decided against registering for the general election this year, a party spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

“Without any objections, all the party leaders reached a consensus not to register the party and join the election because the junta’s election laws are unjust,” said senior party official Khin Maung Swe who attended the meeting at the party’s Rangoon headquarters. “We also agreed to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.”

Party officials said that the lawyer of detained leader Suu Kyi read out a message from Suu Kyi to the party leaders at the meeting and said that “Daw Suu could not accept the party registering under the unjust laws, but she said that neither she nor anyone else owns the party. Therefore, the party members have to make the decision by themselves democratically.”

The party’s 92-year-old party chairman, Aung Shwe, who recently voiced support for the party registering and taking part in the election, did not join in the meeting, but instead sent a letter stating that he would follow Suu Kyi’s decision, according to the party spokesman.

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Tutu Calls Burma Election A ‘Charade’

In a message of encouragement to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, South African Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu said he looks forward to traveling to Rangoon “to join you in your celebrations when you, my sister, are inaugurated as the true, freely elected leader of Burma.” Tutu addressed his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate in an interview with The Irrawaddy, in which he also dismissed the planned 2010 general election as a “charade.”

Read the interview here. Also-

In the latest sign that this year’s vote will be neither free nor fair, Burma’s ruling junta has ordered censors to ban reports on new election laws and other controversial election-related issues, according to Rangoon-based journalists. “Soon after the election laws were announced, we interviewed members of various political parties to get their views on this subject,” said the chief editor of one Rangoon-based journal. “But when we submitted our reports to the censor board, we were told we couldn’t publish them.”

According to sources in Rangoon, a special body has been formed to oversee the work of the Press Scrutiny Board during the election period. The censor board must now submit draft publications to a “special security force” consisting of high-ranking officials, including Lt-Gen Myint Swe, who is close to junta head Sen-Gen Than Shwe.

And, funny how you don’t hear about the need to attack Burma innit?-

Burma’s ruling junta has finished construction work on three nuclear reactors in the country’s north and will soon be ready to put them into operation, according to military sources at the elite Defense Services Academy (DSA) in Maymyo, Mandalay Division.

The technology for Burma’s nuclear research project was provided by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (RFAEA), which agreed in May 2007 to help design and build a 10-megawatt light-water reactor using 20 percent enriched uranium-235 fuel.

However, the Russian agency has since distanced itself from the Burmese nuclear program. This has led to fears that the regime has turned to North Korea for assistance in achieving its nuclear ambitions.

UN Special Rapporteur On Burma Calls For War Crime Investigation

That smoothly orchestrated ‘election’ might not be the PR win Than Swhe was hoping for-

A senior UN official has called for Burma’s military rulers to be investigated over allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated against Burmese civilians, in a move that will sharply increase pressure on the isolated regime ahead of controversial national elections due later this year.

In a draft report to the UN Human Rights Council [pdf] in Geneva, Tomás Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, described “a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights” which he said has been in place for many years and still continued.

“There is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels,” he said.

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Burmese Dictatorship Ban Suu Kyi From ‘Elections’

Laws drawn up by the Burmese junta will prohibit detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in a controversial election due to be held later this year. If her party wants to participate in the poll it may even have to formally expel her. The so-called Political Parties Registration Law, published today in state-run newspapers in Burma, prohibits anyone convicted by a court from joining a party and participating in the polls. Ms Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years either in jail or else under house arrest, was last summer convicted of violating the terms of her detention after an uninvited American swam across a lake to her house. In what was widely seen as a staged trial and conviction, her detention was extended until November and many analysts believe the junta will hold the election in October.

May 7 is the deadline for Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to finally decide whether it will continue to exist as a legal party after twenty years of unsuccessful struggle against the military dictatorship. “We have to expel our own leader from the party or face dissolution of the party after May 7,” said Nyan Win, who is both party spokesman and the lawyer representing detained party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thus the junta have barred the leader of the party that won the real and open election in 1990, try and act surprised, disgusting business as usual from Than Shwe.

Burma Refugees’ Conditions & The ‘Election’

Note: You can help the The Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, details HERE.

Damir Sagolj:- MAE SOT, Thailand, Jan 7 (Reuters) – The rubbish dump outside the Thai town of Mae Sot steams with rancid rotting fish and other debris, a squalid haven for hundreds of refugees from Myanmar that aid groups say could swell in size this year. Aid groups are bracing for a rise in refugees from military-ruled Myanmar into neighbouring Thailand and China ahead of its first parliamentary elections in two decades this year, potentially straining ties with its neighbours and worsening crowded refugee camps in Thailand.

Some who fled to Thailand are living in dire conditions. In one settlement, about 300 migrants who crossed illegally into Thailand have taken refuge next to mounds of garbage outside Mae Sot, about 5 km (3 miles) from the border. Life amongst the rubbish beats what they had back home, they said. Some ethnic minorities have faced a military campaign marked by murder, forced labour, rape and the razing of villages.

“I want to stay here and save some money because I can keep what I earn and no one harasses me, even if the job is hard and dirty,” said Sen Sen, a 38-year-old ethnic Karen. People run out of makeshift shacks and line up neatly whenever garbage trucks arrive, waiting to dig through the rubbish as it is unloaded in search of goods for recycling. Barefoot boys and girls sort through piles of trash, occasionally distracted by the broken toys and mud-caked dolls they uncover. Sen Sen earns about 100 baht ($3) a day selling plastic, which she said was enough to live on. In Myanmar she had to give almost all the money she managed to earn to military officers as “protection money” and taxes.

The Myanmar junta has long been accused of persecution of the country’s ethnic minorities, sparking a continuing exodus. Some 140,000 refugees live in official camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the U.N. refugee agency. An estimated 37,000 fled into China in August after government forces routed fighters loyal to a Chinese-speaking Kokang ethnic group, earning Myanmar’s generals a rare rebuke from China, a crucial ally and investor. Thousands fled into Thailand in June when the army clashed with the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group that has been seeking independence in the eastern hills bordering Thailand for the past 60 years.

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Good Words

But we are used to his talk by now, what of actions-

President Barack Obama on Sunday told Myanmar’s junta to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an unusual face-to-face interaction with a top leader of the ruling military. Obama delivered the strong message during his summit with leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations, which included Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called on Myanmar to free his fellow Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and end oppression of minorities.

“Obama brought that up directly with that government,” Gibbs said, indicating that the president addressed Thein Sein. For decades, Western governments have avoided direct contacts with leaders of Myanmar because of the regime’s poor human rights record and suppression of democracy. A joint statement issued after the summit — the first ever between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — devoted a paragraph on Myanmar, a major irritant in relations between the two sides. But the statement did not call for the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years under detention by the military regime. It only urged Myanmar to ensure that the elections it intends to hold in 2010 are “conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner.”

However, a direct appeal from Obama carries more weight as he is the most powerful leader to have conveyed the message directly to a top Myanmar official. Thein Sein did not address leaders’ concerns about Suu Kyi, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. “We expected a bit more but it was not forthcoming. We hope (democracy) … in Myanmar will become a reality sooner than later,” he told reporters. He said a reference to Suu Kyi was not included in the statement because there was no consensus. White House aides said ASEAN was unlikely to include an explicitly critical statement on one of its members, since it would amount to Myanmar criticizing itself. That’s why Obama raised the issue directly in his remarks to the group, said the aides.

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US Ignores Torture Of Own Citizen As It Unfreezes Relations With Burma

Jotman has the goods on this, so go there. But briefly, Amnesty says

Trusted sources have reported to Amnesty international that male activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin was tortured and suffered other ill-treatment whilst in detention in Insein Prison, Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. He was arrested in Yangon on 3 September. He has been denied medical treatment for the injuries he sustained from the torture he endured during interrogation. There are grave concerns about his health.

Follow Amnesty link for action details.

This as the US meets the Burmese health minister and changes its policy on Burma. As I have said before the prospect of intelligent sanctions and negotiations could be good but… in reality is it really about countering China’s influence & non -US- aligned spread of nuclear technology in a geopolitical context as the US squares up to the new power in town (a power that owns a shit load of US debt, hmmm) and human rights & social justice will be forgotten. This is not the most auspicious start. I think we are getting used to the Obama administration’s style sheet, good presentation masking business as usual.

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