Burma: ethnic minorities will be denied the right to vote in the forthcoming general election. Bad for the minorities, bad for democracy, bad for Burma.

Oct 21, 2020 | Uncategorized

Burma’s Elections = Burma’s Future. Photograph: Human Rights Watch

Burma: ethnic minorities will be denied the right to vote in the forthcoming general election. Bad for the minorities, bad for democracy, bad for Burma.

On Monday at an important meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, convened by its Chair, Rushanara Ali MP, Burma Campaign outlined the decision to cancel voting for the country’s ethnic regions.
21 October 2020 — London, UK — Burma Human Rights Network denounces Burma’s decision to cancel voting for ethnic regions of the country with the general election only weeks away. The Union Election Commission cancelled voting in parts of Arakan, Kachin, Kayin, Mon, Shan, and Bago regions because they claimed those areas could not guarantee free and fair elections. The regions listed have had some issues with conflict in the past, but most have not had significant issues for years. In Arakan State alone this will disenfranchise more than a million voters.   “The decision to negate the votes of ethnic minorities in order to ensure an election is democratic is absurd on its face. It is especially telling that people historically oppressed by the military and government are the ones told that they cannot have a say in the general election. The Election Commission must reverse their decision, even in Arakan, and work towards ensuring the safety and transparency of elections, rather than thinking it is a solution to deny minorities of fundamental rights,” Said BHRN Executive Director, Kyaw Win.    Burma’s general election will largely be a contest between Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party and the military aligned USDP. When the NLD swept the general election in 2015 many hoped it would give greater rights and autonomy for the ethnic regions of the country, yet Suu Kyi and her party have failed to bring about meaningful change for these regions and have overseen dramatic escalations in conflict. The general elections are in part an opportunity for parties representing ethnic regions to gain seats in the parliament and ensure a say for their people. By denying parts of these regions a chance to vote in the general election the election commission is blatantly denying minorities of representation.    BHRN calls on the Union Election Commission to immediately reverse its decision and to allow voting for all regions of Burma. A plan must be made to protect polling places in areas considered troubled. Efforts should be made to reach a ceasefire in Arakan, if only for the duration of the election. If any measures are taken to ensure the security of polling places, they must not have any potential to intimidate voters or have the appearance of influencing the election. The UEC must also ensure that steps are taken to protect voters from spreading Covid-19, as cases are steadily increasing in the country.    Organisation’s Background BHRN is based in London, operates across Burma and works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.   Media Enquiries Please contact: Kyaw Win, Executive Director Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) E: kyawwin@bhrn.org.uk T: +44(0) 740 345 2378

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