The 2008 constitution bars many groups from taking part in the national elections planned for 7 November. These people include religious leaders, political prisoners; ethnic people denied identity cards and millions of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.
Ko Tate Naing fromThe Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP)says the 2010 election and party registration laws bans prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for election or belonging to a political party.
“Political prisoners need to be able to freely participate in the political process and more importantly, national reconciliation. The current election laws aimed at disqualifying political prisoners are an unsurprising ploy to restrict all opposition groups.”
The 2008 also bars religious leaders from voting.
It is estimated by humanitarian groups that there are as is between two and three million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Many of these workers will not return to Burma for the election as it is difficult, expensive and they have not received any election materials by the regime.
Sai Poon, is a migrant worker who says he won’t be voting. Sai, 39, is married with a seven-year-old son who lives with him and his wife in the northern Thai town of Chiang Mai. Sai says he earns about 150baht ($4.76) a day as a daily farm laborer. Sai Pon is from Lashio the capital of Shan State north.
“I’m almost 40. I have never voted. If I didn’t work in Thailand I wouldn’t know anything about elections. I won’t be voting. The military regime want to control all Burma, including Shan State, they will try many ways to win this election. People in Burma have difficulty to travel; we cannot say what we think because we are afraid. Even when we are sleeping, and if the dog barks, we are afraid the military might be coming for us.”
Many people in Burma are confused about the elections. They don’t know if they are eligible to vote. The 2008 Constitution clearly states that religious leaders such as monks are not allowed to vote. Sao Pannya, is a 34-year-old monk from Shan State South’s Mongkeung township and says he does not know if monks can vote or not.
“I don’t know if the regime has barred monks from voting, but even if I was allowed I would not vote.”
Section 392 of the constitution states the following people are not eligible to vote. They include monks, pastors, Christian priests, Muslim clergy and people serving prison sentences.
The constitution clause is clear in its intention to remove monks from politics, especially after the thousands of monks took to the streets to protest in 2007.
Sao Dhamma, 37, is a monk from Shan State South who says, “Monks are often more interested in politics than ordinary people.”
Dhamma says he spoke to many villagers and monks as he traveled around Shan State and villagers were not well informed about politics. Dhamma says monks are a good source of information because they are traveling from place to place with less restriction, nine months of the year.
“The people trust monks. We hold discussions about culture, human rights, education, agriculture and now its election time, there will be discussions about politics.”
Dhamma says he noticed the USDP were allowed to campaign freely, unlike the SNDP and other parties who had to get permission from local authorities.
“Local authorities were urging the people to vote for the USDP candidates.”
The 2008 constitution and local authorities have given the USDP an unfair election advantage over its local political rivals.