Myanmar’s opposition leader has denounced the military government’s new laws passed earlier this week. Aung San Suu Kyi described the law that bar her from runnng for office as “unjust” and “repressive”.
Five election-related laws were enacted by the country’s ruling generals on Monday to govern the polls. Details have been gradually unveiled in state-run newspapers. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
Aung San Suu Kyi said she is surprised but undaunted by the laws which will also bar her from voting in elections expected later this year.
Even if she were to be freed from house arrest before her term ends in November, several provisions announced so far severely curtail Aung San Suu Kyi’s involvement in national politics.
On Thursday, Nyan Win, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said that she had called for a strong response from supporters but has not yet specified what they should do.
“[She] said she never expected such repressive laws would come out but said she’s not disappointed,” he told reporters after meeting the Nobel laureate at her home on Thursday.
“She said such challenges call for resolute responses and calls on the people and democratic forces to take unanimous action against such unjust laws.”
This year’s elections are part of the junta’s long-announced “roadmap to democracy”, that critics deride as a sham designed to cement the military’s power base.
Last May, a military-backed constitution was approved by a national referendum, although the opposition charges that the vote was unfair.
On Wednesday, another election law was announced, which prohibits anyone convicted of a crime from being a member of a political party. That law makes Aung San Suu Kyi ineligible to become a candidate in the elections, or even to be a member of her own NLD party.
A day later, two other laws were unveiled. They take away her right to vote, saying that those convicted of crimes are barred from the polls.
Moreover, they formally invalidated the 1990 election results, saying the 1989 election law under which those polls were held will be repealed by the new legislation.
‘Systematic violation of human rights’
In the meantime, a UN special envoy for human rights in Myanmar called for an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by the military government, based on a report following a tour of the country last month.
In a draft report to the UN Human Rights Council, Tomas Ojea Quintana said there was an indication that a “systematic violation of human rights” in Myanmar was the result of state policy.
“According to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the statute of the International Criminal Court,” said the report.
According to Quintana the violations “are the result of a state policy that originates from decisions by authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”.
They include the recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against the Muslim minority in northern Rakhine state and the deprivation of basic rights to food, shelter, health and education, which he said had continued unabated for years.
The report will be examined in Geneva on Monday.
‘Credible, meaningful and important’
Myanmar pressure groups hailed the UN rights report saying they hoped to see an inquiry held without further delay.
“This is the time for action,” said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known.
“This is the first time in the nearly 20 years of UN involvement in my country that an UN official made a credible, meaningful and important recommendation to help transform the situation in Burma.”
In a separate report released on Thursday, the US State Department highlighted Myanmar’s “severe human rights abuses”, including deaths in custody, rape and torture.
In it’s annual report, the department said Buddhist monks were subjected to particularly “cruel treatment” including beatings, due to the role the clergy played in the bloody pro-democracy protests in 2007.
The administration’s new policy of engagement appears to be failing in view of the restrictive elections laws, said Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state on Friday.
Speaking in Bangkok, Campbell said Washington’s approach was to “encourage domestic dialogue between the key stakeholders” but the ruling military’s recent announcements on elections restrictions are very disappointing.