Myanmar rebels refuse to join 2010 polls

Other News Materials 8 February 2009 07:43 (UTC +04:00)

The Shan State Army - an insurgent group in north-east Myanmar - has opposed the junta's planned general election in 2010, joining a growing number of ethnic minority groups determined to upset the polls, media reports and analysts said Sunday.

Shan State Army leader Colonel Yod Serk said the SSA was one of at least ten ethnic minority rebel groups that have come out against the 2010 general election, the Bangkok Post reported.

"The junta announced the upcoming election, but never let the opposing parties run in the race," Yod Serk told the newspaper.

The rebel leader claimed even the United Wa State Army, a close ally of the Myanmar junta, was opposed to the upcoming election, dpa reported.

Growing opposition to the planned general election may force Myanmar's ruling junta to delay the polls, analysts said Sunday.

"Besides the SSA, the New Mon State Party and Kachin Independence Organization have also come out against the polls," said Aung Din, executive director for the US Campaign for Burma.

Myanmar's military regime has fought more than a dozen ethnic minority-based insurgencies in its hinterlands for decades, although cease-fire agreements have been signed with most of them.

The ruling junta included representatives of the ethnic minorities, representing almost half the population, in its constitution-drafting process, which took 14 years, but ignored their demands to establish a federation in a post-election period that would have granted states such as the Karen, Kachin, Shan, Arakan and Chin a measure of autonomy.

Instead, under the new constitution, all rebels groups will be required to give up their arms and submit to the central government.

"This is their last chance," Aung Din said. "If they allow the election to be held there will not be another chance for them to claim autonomy."

"Without satisfying the ethnic groups I don't think the junta will be able to hold the election," he said.

Besides the ethnic minority groups, Myanmar's chief opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by imprisoned Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi - has demanded amendments to the constitution before it considers contesting the 2010 polls.

The NLD won the 1990 polls by a landslide, but was denied power by the junta on the claim that a new constitution was needed before civilian rule was possible. NLD leader Suu Ski has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest.

The new constitution of 2008 has been written in such a way as to cement the military's control over a post-election government.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962, when a coup led by General Ne Win ended the country's first post-independence elected government under Prime Minister U Nu.