Outsiders may wonder—why is Burma’s main democratic opposition boycotting elections on November 7th, after twenty years of waiting?
This video from Burma Partnership, which features some of my favorite activists on the Thai-Burma border, offers some answers. Win Hlaing, an MP-elect from the 1990 elections, alongside Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was never allowed to claim office after their party won in a landslide. He describes how this time, the regime has already guaranteed their win before election day, with Daw Suu and most of the opposition behind bars, and top generals assuming ‘civilian’ identities to contest. Naw Htoo Paw, an ethnic Karen activist who has been actively campaigning to bring the junta to the International Criminal Court asks a key question—how we can possibly expect real political change when those responsible for crimes against humanity are still in charge? Outspoken Ashin Sopaka, brings to mind the scores of brave monks who took to the streets in 2007’s Saffron Revolution, with another impassioned call to resistance.
With less than two weeks before the elections, a recent junta announcement has banned any international observers or journalists. Those with the best info on both the elections and various forms of resistance to them are Burma’s independent media outlets with one foot inside the country (read: networks of undercover journalists) and one foot out. Burma News International, the Irrawaddy, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (of Burma VJ fame) are good ones to watch.
Some foreign journalists have snuck in and managed to do some interesting interviews inside the country. A recent piece in The Independent spotlights the challenges facing opposition candidates who have in fact decided to contest. Tellingly, they say they are fighting an election they know they cannot win.