Friday, 13 December 2019

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MPs-elect in the dark over junta curbs on free speech

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s ruling military junta has failed to inform political parties about its restrictions on freedom of speech for lawmakers, party spokesmen said yesterday. 

Voter-DemonstrationThe Associated Press reported on Saturday that the laws signed by junta chief Than Shwe the day before said parliamentarians would be allowed freedom of expression unless their speeches endangered national security, the unity of the country or violated the constitution. Anyone who staged protests in the parliament compound would be sentenced to two years in prison.

Assemblies must convene within 90 days of November 7, the day the election was held, but parties that won seats remained uninformed about the regulation, they said.

“If they want to impose a law, we should be informed. So the law is still unofficial,” 88-Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) chairman Ye Tun told Mizzima.

A candidate of that party has won the States and Divisions Assembly seat of Hlaingtharyar Township constituency No. (1).

Shan Nationals Democratic Party (SNDP), aka the White Tiger Party, said that if the law was really imposed, MPs would lose freedom of speech, but offered absence as another form of protest. 

“If we need to protest, a thing we can do is to be absent from the parliament. The potential law did not say that we can’t be absent,” SNDP vice-chairman Sai Saung Si told Mizzima. Fifty-seven SNDP candidates won assembly seats in the election.

National Democratic Party for Development vice-chairman Hla Thein said: “We don’t know it. We have not been informed.” His party won two parliamentary seats in Buthidaung Township, Arakan State, in Burma’s west.

Meanwhile, a Kayin People’s Party spokesman confirmed the lack of information provided to parties about the rule. It won six assembly seats.

The first election in 20 years held on November 7 was severely criticised as neither free nor fair after the junta, its Union Election Commission, and the parties it backed contravened almost every known principle that defines the running of just polls.

Rights think tank Altsean-Burma (Alternative Asean Network on Burma) said in its extensive report on the polls titled Burma 2010 Election Recap that “widespread evidence of electoral fraud, irregularities, threats, harassment and lack of independent monitoring characterised election day and the days leading up to it”.

While the state-run media have gradually announced the electoral results, the observers have estimated that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won more than 76 per cent of all seats. The USDP won 76.52 per cent of the 1,154 seats at stake in the election, Altsean said.

The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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