November 8th a year ago I remember being woken up by a flurry of text messages and calls about how conflict had broken out just a few miles away. I was working in Mae Sot, Thailand and the problems of Burma’s flawed election that had happened the day before were now a palpable reality. A group of Karen soldiers who had been aligned with the military regime had broken away, unhappy with the rigged elections and the broken constitution coming into power. In one day 30,000 refugees poured into my town escaping this new violence. What is horrifying to me is that 7,000 of those people still remain displaced – hiding along the Thai-Burma border.
Most regular people from Burma were not excited about the elections that happened in 2010. They saw what was happening in their communities in the lead up. They saw the regime’s civilian proxy group the Union for Solidarity and Development Party take political reins and dominate the elections. They had been the regime’s brutal civilian mechanism used to harass activists and control the populous and now they were poised to take political power.
“USDP will win for sure. It’s going to be worse if they take power because thugs and gangster will misuse power to ruin the country. This is why I’m not going to vote…They have the winning cards in their hands. The result has been arranged. Why should we bother to play this game?” – Ye Htut, News Vendor, Rangoon.
To see a list of election violations reports gathered before, during, and after the elections visit Burma Election Tracker or read the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma’s comprehensive report about human rights abuses during the election.
Though there have been a few signs of change coming out of Rangoon, all these changes are not permanent. Political prisoners can be locked up again, officials can stop talking to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the internet can be closed off again. No real, tangible, irretractable progress has been made and the ruling elite of generals and cronies haven’t had to do anything that relinquishes their power.
Especially during this anniversary time, with conflict in Burma horrifically expanding, I remember the point that many Burmese activists kept on making in the lead up to the election – It’s the Constitution Stupid. The Constitution that came into force with the new elections ensures that the military maintains complete autonomy from any control and ethnic groups do not get the rights they have been calling/fighting/pushing for [amongst many other problems]. Even if some new MPs in Burma want change there is nothing they can do to stop the abuses of Burma’s military.
The Democratic Voice of Burma came out with a new video with footage shot by their secrete network of journalists during the 2010 Election. It shows the manipulations used by the regime during this time and the frustration ordinary people felt.