Thursday, 27 May 2010
Rights group slams Myanmar junta on poll anniversary
BANGKOK — A leading rights group marked the 20th anniversary of Myanmar's last elections on Thursday by calling on the junta's allies to demand a credible political process ahead of this year's polls.
The military-ruled country's last national vote, held on May 27, 1990, was won by a landslide by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but the ruling generals never let her party take power.
"The 1990 elections sent a clear message to the Burmese military that the people wanted them out of power," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch. Burma is Myanmar's former name.
"The generals won?t make the same mistake twice. The past 20 years have been a stage-managed process to ensure the military controls the future parliament," she said in a statement.
The country's first elections since 1990 are due to be held by the end of November this year.
The NLD was forcibly dissolved after refusing to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a political party -- a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader and recognise the junta's controversial constitution.
Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 20 years in jail or house arrest.
Human Rights Watch said the upcoming elections "appear designed to enshrine military rule with a civilian face".
"Only the most cynical of governments could endorse Burma's deeply flawed process," Pearson said, urging Myanmar's diplomatic and trade partners, such as China, India, Russia, and Singapore, to exert pressure on the government.
"On the 20th anniversary of a crushed election, Burma's friends should insist on the immediate release of political prisoners and an inclusive and credible political process."
Human Rights Watch also called on the international community to impose more "calibrated and targeted" sanctions on Myanmar's military and its business associates.
On Wednesday the nations of Southeast Asia and the European Union urged Myanmar to ensure forthcoming elections are "credible and transparent", as the EU pressed the junta to allow a team to visit the country to discuss the polls.