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Lawmakers Urged to Boycott Results Of Upcoming Polls in Junta-Led Burma

Originally appeared in The Jakarta Globe

May 30, 2010

Burmese pro-democracy activists have called on Indonesian human rights organizations and the House of Representatives to denounce this year’s elections in the military-run state.

During a visit to Jakarta last week, Khin Ohmar, coordinator of the Burma Partnership, and Hkun Okker, a member of the National Council of the Union of Burma, said they were looking to Indonesia to take a stand against the junta and refuse to acknowledge the results of the elections, which are expected in November.

“It is a very dangerous trap,” Khin Ohmar told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday, adding that unless the military junta released pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, the Burmese elections would be meaningless.

After meeting on Tuesday with lawmakers from House Commission I, which oversees foreign affairs and defense, Khin Ohmar said a legislative resolution from a large nation such as Indonesia denouncing the elections would not only send a strong message to the repressive regime, but also to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“We know Indonesia has leverage,” she said. “If the parliaments and governments of powerful Asean members stand together, it would create pressure for Asean to act.”

Asean is well-known for its policy of noninterference in member countries’ domestic affairs. However, Indonesia has recently been spearheading regional moves to call for greater democratization in Burma.

Lily Wahid, a member of House Commission I from the National Awakening Party (PKB), said she would support the Burmese pro-democracy cause because it would serve as a reminder to all that Indonesia once suffered under a military regime.

“We have been freed from our 32 years of dictatorship,” she said. “We’ve been through a period when we had no freedom to express our opinions, so we need to set an example for Asean by taking a stand.”

Eva Kusuma Sundari, chairwoman of the House caucus on Burma, outlined in a statement that the body recommended the House denounce and boycott the results of the Burmese polls because its election laws did not embrace the principles of free and fair elections.

The caucus said that the election laws had deprived Suu Kyi and 2,100 other political prisoners of their political rights and marginalized religious groups, including depriving Buddhist monks of the right to become members of parliament. Moreover, it said the regime had repeatedly refused to engage in dialogue with the international community over the elections.

Eva, a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said the caucus denounced what it labeled as “human rights violations” in the implementation of the upcoming elections, and would question the legitimacy of the results.

Consequently, she said the caucus would urge the government to show its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Asean Charter by using its influence over Burma and other Asean nations to push for the unfair election laws be to revoked.

Kemal Aziz Stamboel, who heads Commission I, said he would pursue the Burma issue at the commission’s hearings so that members could then relay the message to their party factions.

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