Elections in Myanmar

Neither free nor fair – and certainly not open to everyone (Press Release)

In the upcoming elections in Myanmar next Sunday (November 8) hundreds of thousands of Rohingya as well as members of other minorities will not be allowed to vote – either because the constitution does not allow them to vote at all, or because they are excluded based on their ethnicity or religion, as the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticized today.

The country's election commission has banned voting in several conflict regions that are dominated by ethnic minorities, including the states of Kachin, Chin, and Rakhine. "This effectively deprives the citizens in these regions of their right to vote. In Rakhine alone, this affects up to one million voters," criticized Jasna Causevic, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. "This far-reaching decision was made in secret – without prior consultation with political parties, candidates, or local organizations.

Yesterday, Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, the largest British Rohingya organization, informed the STP that the Rohingya and many other minority groups in the country are deprived of their civil and human rights by the discriminatory election legislation: " My grandfather was a parliamentary secretary in post-independence Myanmar and even worked with independence hero Aung San. In 1978, my parents were among the 200,000 Rohingya who were forced to flee to Bangladesh during the bloody military operation 'Dragon King' in Rakhine State. They returned after several months in exile. Today, people like me are not allowed to vote unless they can prove that they were born in Myanmar or that their family has been living there for centuries. The disenfranchisement of the Rohingya is part of the genocide against us – and, instead of condemning this policy, the international community supports it.

Next Sunday, more than 7,000 candidates from 93 political parties will be competing for the 1,171 seats in the two chambers of the Union Parliament and in the seven state and seven regional parliaments. The currently dominant National League for Democracy, which is also expected to win Sunday's election, is accused of trying to manipulate the elections by banning rival parties and by obstructing the work of critical websites and, for a short time, even Myanmar's largest election observer, PACE. This had led to gross errors in the lists of eligible voters – including false names and names of deceased citizens. Of the approximately 53 million people in the country, about 70 % belong to the dominant ethnic group of the Bamar, while the remaining 30 % are made up of numerous ethnic minorities. A quarter of the seats in all legislative chambers are reserved for the military.