Opposition wavering over election appeal

Four members of the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) who have served prison sentences under treason charges are wavering over whether to appeal a ban on them competing in elections this year.

The NDF, who last week formally opened their new headquarters in Rangoon, have been permitted to run in the elections. A number of party members split from the now-defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) after it decided to boycott Burma’s first elections in 20 years.

But four NDF members – spokesperson Khin Maung Swe, Sein Hla Oo, Thar Sai and Tin Aung Aung – are currently banned from competing for seats. They were members of a group who sought to materialise a parallel government following the last elections in 1990, and were convicted of treason.

Under Burmese law, individuals who have been convicted of treason are banned from standing as candidates in elections. Khin Maung Swe said however that the four were informed by the Election Commission on 30 July to appeal against the ban.

“We still have not submitted the appeal – now we are just making preparations and discussing with our lawyers,” said Khin Maung Swe. “We were convicted under laws 121, 122 and 124, which are serious charges related to attempting to materialise a parallel government, and were given sentences from 10 to 15 years.”

“Since then, we were told that individuals like us, punished under serious charges, were banned for life from standing in elections. The EC told us the elections are drawing close and that we should submit an appeal addressed to the EC as soon as possible to remove the ban if we wish to stand in the elections. They told us there is more work to be done regarding the elections.”

He said it is not clear whether they will definitely be pardoned from the ban if they submit the appeal.

An attempt at a parallel government was made after the Burmese junta broke its promise to hand over power to the winners of the 1990 elections, the NLD, which is headed by imprisoned Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Despite the NDF’s approval last month, the US said that it remains deeply worried about the “flawed electoral process”.

“We respect decisions that former NLD members have made,” state department spokesman Philip Crowley said on 13 July. “We certainly do not have any expectation that what proceeds in Burma here will be anything that remotely resembles a free, fair or legitimate result.”

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