avr 16 2009

NLD to Hold Rare ‘Special Meeting’ this Month

source : The Irrawaddy

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), plans to hold a rare special meeting on April 28-29 to discuss what spokesman Han Thar Myint described as “several matters important for the country.”

File photo shows women members of the National Democracy League for Democracy gather last year outside the headquarters in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

These matters were likely to include the proposed 2010 general election, Western sanctions against Burma and a proposed review of the newly adopted constitution, Han That Myint told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

The meeting will be attended by the party executive, those NLD members who were successful in the 1990 election, senior members and representatives of the women’s and youth sections of the party,

“The meeting will be more like an open discussion on several matters important for the country,” Han Thar Myint said.

Invitations to the special meeting were sent out earlier this month by NLD chairman Aung Shwe, who said the executive committee would read “a paper” to participants. Han Thar Myint did not say what the paper would contain.

The NLD, led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, was formed after the 1988 uprising and went on to win more than 80 percent of constituencies in the 1990 general election, the result of which was ignored by the junta.

In its 20 years existence, the NLD has been a frequent target of the regime. Its offices across the country have been frequently closed down, many of its members have been harassed and forced to leave the party.

In those two decades, the NLD has been able to hold only two large-scale meetings, once before the 1990 election and a second in 1997.

An attempt to arrange a meeting in August 1998 of members elected in the 1990 poll failed when the junta arrested several who had planned to take part. Restrictions were also placed on members’ travel.

Since his release from prison in September 2008, prominent NLD leader Win Tin has been trying to reorganize the party, including holding regular executive committee meetings.

No regime reaction to the planned meeting this month has been noted, Han Thar Myint said.

Apart from regime harassment, the NLD has also been targeted by critics of its ageing leadership and lack of reform. All executive committee members, with the exception of Suu Kyi and Khin Maung Swe, are in their eighties.

NLD sources say no reform of the party leadership can be undertaken because of restrictions by the regime.

An NLD decision on whether or not to participate in the 2010 election is still awaited. The party has, however, called for a review of the constitution adopted in 2008, but last month junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe rejected the proposal.

The constitution reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for military officials and assures the military a leading role in Burma’s politics.

avr 8 2009

“A clear cut international policy on the 2010 election is needed”

Reflecting on the wisdom of Ludu Sein Win

by Celeste Chenard
source : Mizzima
“A clear cut international policy on the 2010 election is needed”

Through his words, veteran journalist Ludu Sein Win has fought to improve the situation in his country for over four decades, tireless in his pursuit of a better Burma.

Beginning his career as a reporter at the left-wing Ludu newspaper in the mid-1960s, it wasn’t long before his words and associations drew the ire of Burma’s then military head-of-state, General Ne Win, who ordered the publication shut down in 1967. As a consequence, Ludu Sein Win spent the ensuing 13 years in jail, and ever since his release a subject of surveillance at the hands of Burma’s security forces.

Today, despite paralysis in his right hand and the need of mechanically-assisted breathing, Ludu Sein Win, 69, still receives young people at his downtown Rangoon home, reveling audiences with both his personal story and his opinions on issues critical to Burma’s future.

With the 2010 general elections looming on Burma’s political horizon, Ludu Sein Win, in a recent sitting, didn’t mince his words – making a resolute appeal for a unified stance, inclusive of the international community, in combating the junta’s heretofore unilateral roadmap.

According to Ludu Sein Win, “The feelings of the people and my own feeling is totally to boycott the election. If we don’t recognize the national convention, boycotting the election is the only possible strategy.”

The media, international community and political activists, in his estimation should all come together in not recognizing the national convention, thereby encouraging a nationwide boycott of the election.

When specifically asked about the role of the international community in the 2010 elections, he made a clear request: “I want to ask Western countries and the exiled media to try to conduct a concerted effort, with a unanimous decision, to compete with the regime.”

His words are a reminder that whatever politics the U.S. opts to employ towards Burma will greatly impact worldwide opinion and influence the behavior of many other countries.

After all, should not the Obama administration seriously consider the fact that effective and collective action by the international community may be the only way to successfully, if indirectly, undermine the junta?

However, though advocating for a firm and continued rejection of the 16-year national convention process, a long-standing position of Burma’s democratic opposition and activists, Ludu Sein Win also recognizes the imminent need for reform within the ranks of the opposition’s leadership.

In Ludu Sein Win’s opinion, what is really important now is to build a revitalized and strong leadership inside the country, one that can bring new blood to the actual National League for Democracy (NLD) leadership, which is presently epitomized by leaders in their 80s – or older.

“What we need is good leadership”, he argues. “Look at the NLD headquarters, there are no activities, no discussions, no arguments…only quiet. Chairmen are over 90 years old and some cannot walk without assistance, or are blind. They discuss nothing and read nothing.”

“A leadership of octogenarians with no knowledge about the Internet cannot compete with young, well educated members of the military,” he continued. “The NLD needs a new organization within its headquarters because with this current leadership we cannot compete with the government…we cannot beat the government.”

Ludu Sein Win envisions a pivotal role for the evolving new media technologies, in a cyber war that Burma’s military government seems to have already acknowledged.

In a recent speech, a senior figure in Burma’s military regime accused foreign media of spreading lies to undermine national unity, a state-controlled newspaper reported on Sunday.

“Some countries (…) are using the media as a weapon to weaken unity, to disrupt stability and to deceive the international community,” Adjutant General Thura Myint Aung is additionally quoted by the AP as saying in a speech Saturday, marking the 14th anniversary of state-run Myawaddy Television.

The implacable censorship board, a highly controlled Internet and the pure number of jailed bogglers and journalists demonstrates just how seriously the regime considers the threat emanating from alternative sources to that of state-run media.

Undoubtedly, international media and the exiled media in particular have a key role to play in the coverage of the coming elections. Understanding this, isn’t it time to publish stories regarding the elections, especially since Burma’s domestic media have not yet (or ever will?) discuss electoral issues?

But to what extent can media, and in particular new media technologies, really affect the regime’s self-imposed isolationism and stimulate political change?

“The exiled media are very important for us,” confirms Ludu Sein Win, “they are our only weapon to counter the propaganda and misinformation of the authorities – they are the only media the whole nation can rely on for information and comments.”

“It is very important for members of the exile media to work hard for the course of the country and for the sake of the people,” he explained. “The media must reflect the real situation of our nation and the real feeling of the people and they must offer opinions and guide the people.”

However, the example of the 2007 uprising proves that intense media coverage and pressure are not enough to beat the regime. Media can pair with political transition or provide a supporting role, but alone cannot launch a successful transition. This doesn’t mean that one should underestimate the role of the media. On the contrary, the various forms of media pressure are greatly needed to raise the awareness of the people and to stimulate the necessary conditions leading to the collapse of the regime.

When speaking of the media, Ludu Sein Win emphasizes the role of the international and exiled media for those inside Burma, as for him they represent a vital community working toward a hoped for transformation of Burma’s socio-political and economic scene.

In his mind, it is not the tactics or the strategy that matters, but the effective application of general pressure from the outside world.

And even if it is assumed that change can only come from inside Burma, a strong and concerted approach to advocacy at the international level may yet be the most productive means to pursue change and demonstrate support for political activists, a strategy that could also lend itself toward the vital emergence of a strong, internal opposition leadership.

But could such a strategy actually bear fruit? Do Ludu Sein Win’s prescriptions to cure Burma’s wounds have a chance to succeed? With certainty, it wouldn’t be a piece of cake. But after years of failed politics, it should at least be worthy of pursuit, if an alternative approach to Burma is indeed required.

Even inside the U.S., American politicians don’t agree about the right policies to adopt. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 17 members of Congress recently gave notice they were “greatly concerned” by indications that the United States was considering lifting sanctions on Burma.

Further, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted, in February, that both the policy of constructive engagement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the sanctions-led approach applied by the U.S. and European Union have failed to achieve any results.

It is a position echoed in the words of Ludu Sein Win with respect to next year’s projected polling: “We need a clear cut policy on this 2010 election. Sanctions are a part of the fight, not a solution.”

Ultimately, what is clear is that opposite strategies cannot undermine a country ruled by a band of generals unwilling to give up their prerogatives, especially when the main trading partners of Burma – India, China and the nations of Southeast Asia – continue to willingly make deposits into the coffers of the generals.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Ludu Sein Win remains true to his roots and heart. Despite his overtures for a strong stance and strategic vision for Burma from the international community and exile groups, Ludu Sein Win is a self-professed romantic, still dreaming of popular uprising and believing in the Burmese peoples’ ability to free themselves of the generals’ yoke.

Even though he doesn’t see the prospects for another uprising in the near future and hammers home the need for a concerted and enhanced international approach to Burma, he maintains, “Change will not come from outside the country, we cannot rely on U.N or U.S intervention. We must rely on ourselves, we have the people power.”

For Ludu Sein Win, looking back at the events of late September 2007 proved to him that the Burmese people are not afraid and still willing to sacrifice to see a better Burma, even if it may cost them their lives.

mar 3 2009

2010: a multy-party election ?

Kachin political party

to contest 2010 election

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Source Mizzima

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The ethnic Kachin people are trying to form a political party to contest the 2010 general elections in Kachin State.

The political party will be called ‘Kachin State Progressive Party’ (KSPP) and its members will be civilians. The party has not yet become a legal party, ‘New Democratic Army-Kachin’ (NDA-K) Chairman Zakhon Ten Yeng said.

“It is still in the planning stage. We have given a name to the party. The government promised to hold a multi-party election. We can’t say yet when this new party will become an officially recognized legal party. It will become a legal party only after the people endorse it. The name ‘KSPP’ is just our proposal which means ‘Party for Kachin State Development’. It has not yet reached the stage of being endorsed by the people and supported by the people,” he said.

“We should have a single and unified political party in Kachin State for all those who wish and initiate to form a political party in our State for the benefit of all the people living in this State regardless of their race and creed. We should have one and only political party with great unity and solidarity. We shall give our support to such a party”, he added.

The main aim of this party is to benefit all ethnic nationalities living in Kachin State, so that they can enjoy freedom in politics and development in Kachin State through a united effort, he said.

It is reported that the leaders of this KSPP party are Dr. Tuja, Vice-Chairman of Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Maj. Manchi Thein Saung, Deputy In-charge of NDA-K Liaison Department and Maj. Phone Ram from the KIA splinter group led by Lashan Awng Wah.

All these persons must resign from their party posts if this party is officially formed, he added.

“We must have freedom to organize if the party is permitted to be formed. We should exercise noble practices for the sake of our country and our region through free discussion,” NDA-K Chairman Zakhon Ten Yeng said.

The transition committee called ‘ Jingphaw Mungdaw Pranwan Komiti’ was formed in the middle of last year to contest in 2010 election with the ceasefire groups in Kachin State namely KIA, KIA splinter group Lashan Awng Wah, NDA-K and Kachin National Consultant Committee.

The members of all these ceasefire groups must resign from their party posts if they join this new Kachin political party as civilians, a Major from NDA-K said on condition of anonymity.

“They will join the political party as civilians and they don’t need to wear police uniform. All of them will become civilians and they are reportedly trying to avoid splitting into two to three political parties in the State,” he added.

“I think there will be a total of 15 persons with five persons from each group. I don’t know who will join them. They are coming to all townships and launching organizational tours,” he further said.

KIA is an ethnic Kachin armed group formed in February 1961 which reached a ceasefire agreement with the military regime in February 1994.

Independent candidates

establish network

to contest 2010 elections

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by Nem Davies
New Delhi (Mizzima) – Twenty five independent candidates set to contest in the Burmese military junta’s proposed general elections scheduled for 2010, have formed a network.

“We must certainly face 2010 elections, either as an independent or as a party in this multi-party election. We decided to contest as independent candidates. At the same time, we knew that we would be in a weak position, if we contested as independent candidates. So, we have decided to explore how to consolidate our position. Then I proposed a network and all the others agreed,” Nay Myo Wei, who hails from Bogale and is a member of this network said.

He frequently posts his opinion on the internet, criticizing the exiled movement.

All the network members have accepted the junta’s 7-fold roadmap and constitution, which was approved in the May 2008 Referendum.

According to the statement issued by this network received by Mizzima, there will be independent candidates, organizers and sympathizers, who will assist in contesting the elections.

The main opposition party ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) has called for reviewing the junta’s unilaterally drafted constitution and said contesting in this election was out of the question for them.

Party spokesperson, Nyan Win, said that if the constitution was not reviewed, it would legitimize military rule and would put the country into more trouble.

The independent candidates, popularly known as the Third Force, said that the politically competent candidates should contest the general elections and should educate the people on how to select their representatives.

“Even if we do not contest in this election, other candidates will appear and contest it. We should give a chance to the people to study their candidates and assess them on how qualified these people are for Parliament, how much they can develop our country, their ideology etc. So, we announced our plan to inform the people in time for them,” Nay Myo Wei said.

The network members said that they would present their aims and objectives to the people through the media. They also said that they would contest from either the Mingaladon constituency, Rangoon Division or Bogale constituency in Irrawaddy Division.

“We follow pluralism. We will join hands with all those who have different views and opinions. We will work together,” he said.

“We avoid ‘public politics’ since the public has quit politics. This is reality. So we chose ‘elite politics’, ” he added.