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Ethnic groups grapple with election strategy

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Two exiled ethnic political organizations have expressed their opposition against the Burmese military junta’s planned 2010 election, saying it is aimed to rubber stamp the junta’s rule and does not guarantee the rights of ethnics.

Hkanhpa Sadan, Joint Secretary of the Kachin National Organisation (KNO) told Mizzima that his organization is not encouraging ethnic groups and others to support the junta’s 2010 elections as it will not provide any opportunity for change.

“It is a wrong conception to believe that this election can present even a slight opening of opportunity for change,” Hkanhpa Sadan elaborated.

Similarly, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), in an official statement on Monday, rejected the junta’s 2010 election, saying the new government elected out of the 2010 election would not act in the interests of the people, instead serving to unquestioningly carry out the junta’s will.

“The rights of the ethnic people for self-determination and protection of our customs and culture will be further endangered by this so-called Parliament,” the KNPP said.

The London-based KNO also urged the ethnic Kachin’s main group, Kachin Independence Organisations (KIO), to uphold its oath to secure the Kachin peoples’ rights, equality and self-determination.

The KIO, along with its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), in 1962 took a historic oath at a meeting in Bhamo in northern Burma, bordering China, committing to fight until Kachins gain their inherent rights.

Hkanhpa Sadan said as the KIA took the oath, “We urged them to remain committed and stop meeting the junta’s representatives under the banner of negotiations for the transformation of the KIA into Border Guard Force.”

Burma’s military rulers have pressured ethnic ceasefire armed groups to transform their armies into a junta administered Border Guard Force, setting a deadline of this October for compliance.

The KIO, along with several armed groups such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has thus far rejected the junta’s proposal, but continues to meet Burma Army commanders, including Lt-Gen Ye Myint, Chief of Military Affairs Security, and Northern Command commander Maj-Gen Soe Win.

“Altogether there have been 10 meetings between the KIO and the junta on this issue, and we want the KIO to remain firm in a decision to stop the meetings,” Hkanhpa Sadan emphasized.

The KIO’s spokesperson and Secretary, Dr. Laja, was not immediately available for comment.

The KNO and KNPP are both members of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), an umbrella organization representing ethnic nationalities in Burma.

In late September, a letter sent by the ENC’s secretariat to US Senator James Webb, a strong supporter of engagement with the Burmese regime, caused confusion among Burmese opposition and ethnic groups, as the letter said the ENC supports ethnic minorities in their participation in the 2010 elections, in order that ethnics have a voice in Burmese politics and play a role in the future governance of the state.

The letter said while the ENC “in principle” does not accept the junta’s 2008 constitution and the upcoming 2010 election, ethnic nationalities are nevertheless left with no choice that they will have to participate.

The letter also urged Webb not to condemn the election before it takes place but to support potential ethnic candidates and prepare them by educating them on elections and how to run for office.

The letter, however, was rejected by the Chairman of the ENC, who argued he had no knowledge of the letter and that it thus does not represent the ENC’s official policy.

Hkanhpa Sadan added that despite the letter, the KNO is committed to the ENC and is abiding by the principles that it has adopted in their last conference, which includes not accepting the 2010 election.

“The issue of the letter will be discussed in a future meeting, but I must say it does not reflect the ENC’s policy,” Hkanhpa Sadan stated.

Similarly, the KNPP, in its statement, said as a representative of the Karenni people it is fully committed to the ENC and “will comply with the ENC's principles regarding the 2010 election, as formulated during its last executive committee held on June 8 - 12, 2009.”

Last Updated ( Thursday, 15 October 2009 21:51 )  

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