19 November 2010
"Voters were watched closely while casting votes. It was not free. There will not be change… We were scared and there was nothing we could do".
- A voter in Shan State
Burma’s November elections took place in an environment marked by widespread violence and intimidation as the regime sought to exploit the pervasive climate of fear in Burma to ensure complete control over the electoral process. Intimidation and threats were carried out in the lead up to the elections, in order to ensure a lack of a viable political opposition and to guarantee popular support for regime-backed parties. These threats proved to be largely successful, and when they were not, the regime often followed up with prompt repercussions. Such election related human rights violations took place across the country, but were noticeably worse in ethnic areas, highlighting the regime’s long-standing policy of ethnic discrimination and persecution. This disregard for ethnic rights has translated in heightened tension between ethnic communities and the central regime, and an associated risk of increased armed conflict in ethnic areas.
Burma Election Tracker has collected over 200 reports involving violence and intimidation; sources range from media groups, to citizen reports, to inside networks and personal interviews.
As a whole, many incidents of intimidation relied upon, and perpetuated the deeply entrenched climate of fear in Burma. The polling booths were designed to diminish voter secrecy, and allow for greater surveillance of voters. A Peace and Diversity party candidate Aung Myo Oo stated:
The polling booth officials … are sitting near the voters while they are voting … So there is no security for them. I think this is deliberate … This is not a secret ballot. This insecurity means the voters are afraid of possibly being watched from behind and have doubts over the privacy of their ballot. It’s not good if the voter feels insecure at a polling station. They might think they will be in trouble unless they vote for the USDP
Aung Myo Oo’s statements corroborated with citizen reports gathered by Burma Election Tracker from voters. An Arakan voter stated, “I voted for USDP because there were may security officers. Others also did the same,” while another voter in Rangoon said, “There were USDP members 10 yards away form the polling station and as well as in the polling station telling people to vote for them. I voted for USDP as I was afraid of them.” This climate of fear was present during the pre-election and post election period, and significantly affected the ability of voters to truly voice their opinions. [...]
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