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Wasteful Spending and Election Law Violations Continue to Mark the Junta’s Election Campaign

By Burma Partnership  •  June 13, 2010

Recent reports of Burma’s nuclear program continue to reverberate throughout Burma’s political spheres and the international community. Opposition parties recently came out in strong opposition to the junta’s wasteful spending on its attempts at producing nuclear weapon technology rather than allocating it towards its woefully skeletal health and education budgets.

“I was shocked and wondered why they wanted nuclear weapons while many people and ethnic groups live in poverty,” said Sai Lao Hseng, a spokesperson for the Shan State Army–South.

The junta’s wasteful spending does not end at its nuclear program; reports of their manipulative electioneering efforts continue to pour in. Villagers have reported that they are pleased with the sudden increase in the junta’s development work, but are concerned about the implications this will have on their ability to vote freely.

“We cannot guarantee voting for the political parties backed by the regime though it is good the junta is into developmental works. However, we are afraid it can hinder our freedom later,” said a villager in Hakha, Chin State. “Though it is good for our block but we do not trust the junta. It will exploit us after such work,” lamented another.

While the USDP is busy spending excessive quantities of funds on electioneering and vote-buying, other parties, specifically those without the backing of the junta, have been scrambling to collect the funds and the members to contest in the elections.

Political parties are required to have a minimum of 1,000 members for a national party and 500 for a regional party within 90 days of receiving permission to contest from the Union Election Commission. Not only has this proven difficult as the people of Burma have grown to associate political activity with persecution from authorities, but this belief has further since been strengthened by the increasingly overwhelming presence of intelligence personnel in many townships.

In contrast, the USDP and other junta-backed parties have had few problems recruiting members thanks to their practice of forced membership recruitment. Furthermore, they have registered a Chinese businessman with close ties to the junta as an election candidate, despite the election laws’ restriction on foreigner participation. The junta’s Chinese business cronies have been known to purchase Burmese passports illegally, but it is still unconfirmed how the USDP has managed to skirt the rules in this case.

The junta’s selective adherence to their own elections regulations—with countless instances of vote buying, electioneering and forced memberships—stands in stark contrast with the severe restrictions imposed on opposition political parties. Once again, the junta has demonstrated that it is above its own laws.

If the international community continues to ignore the junta’s flagrant disregard for democratic principles during the elections, the junta will have no incentive to change course and meet the demands of the people of Burma. The sham elections will then only produce a sham democratic government based on a lack of regard for international laws and standards.

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