Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Burma's Election Violence

While the 'official' election results have not been announced, the people of Burma and the world already know the outcome: continued military rule and escalating violence.
General Election
The military regime held their election on Sunday, November 7, 2010.  Widespread fraud, voter intimidation, cheating, and irregularties were reported throughout the country.  It is clear that the authorities, election commission and the regime's party the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) worked together to secure victories for their USDP candidates.  Some democratic candidates who challenged the USDP candidates claimed yesterday that they won the election as they got more votes at the polling stations.  However, after all votes arrived to the Township Commission office and Commission officials added unspecified and unexpected advanced votes into the count, the results were effectively reversed and USDP candidates became the winners. As expected, the USDP will be the winners of almost all of the contested seats.  The National Democratic Force (NDF), a political party who defected from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and contested in the election have announced they would not accept the election results.  They now plan to file complaints against the USDP to the Election Commission, with little hope of success. 
US Government Reaction
President Obama said: "The November 7th elections in Burma were neither free nor fair, and failed to meet any of the internationally accepted standards associated with legitimate elections.  The elections were based on a fundamentally flawed process and demonstrated the regime's continued preference for repression and restriction over inclusion and transparency."  Click here to read President Obama's full statement. 
War and Refugees
On Election Day, November 7, 2010, fighting between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Brigade 5 and the Burmese Army broke out at an important border town, Myawaddy, on the Thai-Burma border.  The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) split from the Karen National Union (KNU) several years ago to ally with the regime.  Last year, some factions of the DKBA have transformed their troops into the Border Guard Force under the direct command of the Burmese Army.  But, some troops from DKBA Brigade 5 left the DKBA refusing to agree to work with the Burmese Army anymore. Amid reports Karen villagers were forced by the regime authorities to vote for the USDP candidates in the polls, the DKBA Brigade 5 attacked the Burmese Army and took control of some parts of Myawaddy.  As fighting broke out, tens of thousands of people fled to Thailand.  Several Burmese and Thai civilians in Myawaddy and Mae Sot were injured from being hit by heavy artillery.
On Monday, another DKBA troop, Battalion 907 took control of the Three Pagodas Township, also on the Thai-Burma border, opposite of Sangkhlaburi in Thailand.  Some police men and the regime's soldiers were killed during the fight and several government offices were burnt down by the DKBA troops.  Many residents fled to Thailand to avoid the fighting and being called for porters by warring troops. 
More Ethnic Armies Join the Flighting
On Monday morning, another Karen rebel troop, called the Karen Peace Council, joined in the fight.  The troops attacked the regime's soldiers North of Myawaddy Township.  The New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karen National Union (KNU) troops are also assisting DKBA troops at the Three Pagodas Pass. 
To support these ethnic resistance troops, SSA-S (Shan State Army-South) has launched an attack against the regime's troops in Mong Yang, eastern Shan State early Monday.  Thai's authorities deployed more than 5,000 troops at the border to respond the situation. 
Fighting subsided in Myawaddy on Tuesday and Thailand has ordered the 20,000 new refugees to return to Burma.  The situation remains tenuous and unstable, as fighting continues in other locations and people continue to flee. 
Japanese Reporter Arrested and Charged
Toru Yamaji, the president of Tokyo-based video news provider APF, was arrested on November 7, 2010, in Myawaddy.  He entered Myawaddy by crossing the Moei River by boat from Thailand.  He is now being charged by the regime under Section 13 (1) of the Immigration Act (Emergency Provisions), which says violators can be punished "with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or with a fine, or with both."
United Wa State Party's (UWSP) Announcement
One of the strongest ethnic ceasefire groups, which refuses to accept the regime's Border Guard Force plan and the elections issued an announcement on November 5, 2010, two days before the regime's election.  The statement makes it clear that the UWSP will not allow anyone to represent its region and the Wa people in this election and it will not bow to the pressure of the regime which forces it to become the regime's Border Guard Force.  It stated that they want to have a peaceful dialogue with the new Government, which may be formed in next three and a half months time. 
Request from USCB Staff
In the lead up to the election the U.S. Campaign for Burma had long warned that this election would lead to increased hostilities between ethnic groups and the military regime.  Yesterday's events proved our worst fears. Now, we are working with our international partners to make sure that the United States and the international community call on the Burmese regime to stop all attacks to prevent more refugee flows and civilians deaths. 
We need President Obama to immediately call on India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN to condemn the Burma's fraudulent election while simultaneously pressuring the Burmese regime to stop attacks against ethnic groups.  We must capitalize on President Obama's presence in Asia to strengthen US cooperation with our strongest Asian allies on Burma.
Donate to us today to help our effort to make sure that President Obama makes Burma a priority during the rest of his Asian trip.  
Sincerely,
Aung Din, Jennifer, Nadi, Patrick and Myra