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Myanmar may descend into chaos post-election: Civil groups

Originally appeared in The Jakarta Post

May 27, 2010

Ethnic paramilitary groups and the wider population may rebel after the planned 2010 election in Myanmar, spiralling the junta-led country further into chaos, ethnic leaders and civil groups said Wednesday.

Hkun Okker, member of National Council of Union of Burma, said the post-election condition of Myanmar may be critical because the period would see the “ethnic army” yield their power and come under control of the government after two decades of enjoying semi-autonomy in the country’s border areas.

Although no date has been set, Myanmar plans to hold the country’s first election in two decades later this year. After the election, the army will no longer be able to rule their self-administered territories.

“The ethnic army may refuse to hand over their power to the military commander in chief, effectively  fighting against the government,” said Okker during a visit to The Jakarta Post.

Khin Ohmar, coordinator of civil group the Burma Partnership said the junta had not offered anything in return for the ethnic leaders to surrender their power, which may lead to a rebellion.

She said the ethnic army numbered around 55,000. Small in comparison to the ruling regime, which has a standing army of between 360,000 and 500,000 troops.

Okker added the population might start to voice their dissatisfaction with the government if they perceive the elections as corrupt.

“The media will also start to focus on the result of the election and will put more pressure on the government.”

He feared Myanmar might collapse, affecting neighboring countries, in particular Thailand, which hosts around 2 million Myanmar refugees and workers.

Okker and Ohmar held a meeting with House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) in Jakarta on Tuesday to rally support against the 2010 elections.

Some 40 parties in Myanmar have registered for the elections, including the government supported party of Union Solidarity and Development Party chaired by Gen. Thein Sein, who resigned as prime minister in April.

Okker said there have been signs of cracks inside the military regime as a small few generals had shown sympathy towards the people.

When asked about what chance the people have of wresting power in the election, Okker said: “they might not be successful in throwing out the regime but it will open chances for more negotiations”.

Myanmar’s civil groups in exile have rallied support to boycott the upcoming election, which has banned opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running.

Suu Kyi was the winner of the last election in 1990 but the ruling junta refused to recognize the result. The 20th anniversary of those elections will fall on Thursday.

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