Can Ethnic Problems Be Solved After the 2010 Elections?

April 5, 2010

In early March, Burma’s ruling military regime officially announced an “Election Commission Law” and “Political Party Registration Law” and encouraged all political groups in the country to register as political parties in the elections, which will be held before the end of 2010.   

The 2010 elections are mainly based on the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC) 2008 constitution, which allows military representatives to hold  25%  of  the seats in Burma’s parliament,  which is comprised of an Upper House and a Lower House.  75% of the Upper House is comprised of representatives elected from 14 regions and ethnic states, and 25% is comprised of military representatives selected by the Chief of Staff. The Lower house is similarly comprised, but 75% of its representatives have been elected from the entire Burmese population, and 25% are military representatives.  Each of Burma 7 ethnic states are allowed to have their own assemblies but they are only allowed to elect 66.66% of their representatives, while 33.33% are military representatives appointed by the Chief-of-Staff.

There will be fewer representatives of Burma’s ethnic minorities in both the national state parliament and the ethnic states’ parliaments, and over 50% of the power is controlled again by the military leaders and their political supporters.

The ethnic representatives have very little voice in parliament because of  their low percentage of involvement.  The ethnic states and their parliaments are not free, have less power, and they are under the command of military leaders appointed by the Prime Minister in their own assemblies.

There have been many problems in Burma’s ethnic minority regions.  Armed conflict is an on-going situation, and thousands of ethnic minority members have migrated to neighboring countries as migrant workers or as refugees.  In the whole of undeveloped Burma, since the military took power in 1962, the ethnic minority areas are the country’s least developed regions; the military government offers only minute amount of support for education, health and developmental assistance.

The ethnic minority groups in all regions of Burma need peace, and want the new government to solve their political problems and end armed conflicts through peaceful negotiations with ethnic minority armed groups.  The people in ethnic regions need development to improve their livelihoods, education for their children and health care in their communities.

Since there is but little representation of ethnic minorities in Burma’s parliament, and the newly elected military-mixed government has the intention of centralizing policies, the ethnic minority groups have little expectation of living in peace, and exercising their freedoms, even after the 2010 elections.


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