Crackdown widened on anti-elections campaigns

Five youths have been arrested in Rangoon after police caught them distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the 7 November elections.

The five – Zin Min Htet, Kyaw Thiha, Chan Myay Aung, Thar Htoo Aung and Zarni Linn – are all university students in Rangoon. Two police arrived at the house of each of the five at around 1am on 17 September and carried out what appears to be a coordinated arrest. It is not yet known where they are being held.

A friend of the group said that police have also accused them of being behind a recent graffiti attack on a signboard outside the office of the Election Commission (EC) in North Okkalapa township, where the youths were arrested.

While momentum is growing among parties campaigning for the elections, the vocal pro-boycott lobby is also widening its movements. But it faces possibly severe recriminations from the junta, which is looking to place the country on lockdown with seven weeks to go until the vote.

The disbanded opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party was warned on Saturday that continued calls for Burmese to boycott the polls could “on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year” or a US$1,000 fine.

But not all are heeding the threat, which observers see as an attempt by Burma’s ruling generals to silence the country’s main referents and rush through the vote as smoothly as possible. A coalition of five youth activists have said they will be carrying out “visible” anti-elections campaigns across the country.

“The 2010 elections are based on the 2008 constitution, which was forcibly approved at the price of more than 100,000 lives lost in cyclone Nargis,” said Min Thway Thit, spokesperson for the Burma Democracy Activists Alliance (BDAA) group, referencing the referendum that was rushed through in the weeks following Burma’s worst-recorded natural disaster in May 2008.

A statement released by the BDAA said that parties competing in the polls, which are the country’s first in 20 years, are “just puppets [used] to protect the profit of the military dictators”. Despite there being a majority of apparently pro-junta parties, a number of opposition and ‘third force’ groups will be competing in the elections.

The coalition is formed ofthe  2007 Generation Students Federation, the All Burma Student Federations’ Union ABSFU), Myaylatt Students’ Organisation, the New Saffron Generation Organisation and the New Generation Youth Organisation.

It also denounced members of the international community who are supporting some of the opposition parties such as the National Democratic Force (NDF), which is formed of some former members of the NLD who rejected the party’s call for a boycott.

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