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Migrant workers vote in ‘People’s Ballot’ campaign

Originally appeared in Mizzima

May 27, 2010

Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot, Thailand voted in the “People’s Ballot” campaign today, which pitted Aung San Suu Kyi against Senior General Than Shwe, part of a  worldwide tribute to the National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in national polls in 1990.

The workers also condemned the junta’s general election planned for later this year. More than 200 migrant workers cast their vote on Thursday in the Thai-Burmese border town by their choice on ballot papers featuring images of opposition leader Suu Ki, who remains under house arrest, and Burmese junta chief Than Shwe.

The campaign would continue until votes were counted on June 19 and the results sent to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan’s office, Thwin Lin Aung, foreign affairs spokesman for an alliance of 10 opposition groups, said.

After the 1990 election, the junta refused to transfer power to the NLD, which had won 82 per cent of available parliamentary seats, and forced through a constitution in 2008 that almost guarantees its continued grip on power and ensures its control of the armed forces.

The main opposition parties including NLD and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) were denied any part in drafting the constitution, which took 14 years to complete and followed approval in a controversial constitutional referendum.

The military regime plan to hold the polls this year not earlier than October but the main opposition forces have refused to compete. The polls will automatically activate the constitution.

At least 150 exile pro-democracy opposition groups unanimously oppose the junta’s general election, but said that they would recognise the election, the first in 20 years, if their three-point demands were met. They are: release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi; cease violent attacks on ethnic nationalities and pro-democracy activists; and, engage in dialogue with all stakeholders from pro-democracy groups and ethnic groups.

Besides Mae Sot, opposition groups are conducting the campaign as a global action in 15 countries including India and Japan simultaneously to expose the unilateral nature of the junta’s planned polls.

Ten opposition groups are engaging in the campaign and include united front organisations such as the National Council of the Union of Burma, the Democratic Alliance of Burma, the National Democratic Front, the Women’s League of Burma, ethnic youth organisations, MPs-elect and the parallel coalition government.

In New Delhi, India, more than 200 Burmese demanded the Indian and Asean governments to condemn the Burmese government if it held elections by ignoring the opposition group demands.

“People’s Ballots” cast by Burmese taking refuge in New Delhi were sent to the office of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today, campaign leader Kim said.

“We had been collecting these ballot papers from houses and churches since Sunday”, Kim said.

Similarly more than 100 people rallied in front of the Burmese embassy in Japan and made similar demands by putting the ballots in the embassy’s mailbox.

Similar demonstrations are being planned in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, France, Sweden, the United States, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and Brazil.

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