Riot police deployed in lieu of 2010 elections

Nov 7, 2009 (DVB), Scores of police from central Burma have been transferred to Rangoon and Mandalay in an alleged attempt to contain possible protests before elections next year.

Police sources have said that since October at least 74 people from 10 townships in Bago division have been redeployed to police battalions, the term the government coined for riot police following the 1988 uprising.

A private police officer who was included in the transfer told DVB that the highest ranking officer to be moved was inspector.

"It was the first transfer of so many to police battalions but our bosses didn't tell us the reason," he said.

Locals close to the police said those who have been relocated are not satisfied with the move for a number of reasons.

"They are upset because they have to leave their families behind. Also, when they are in a new place they may not have the same amount of income they can make here," said a friend of one of those transferred. "Perhaps, they will be used as riot police in the future."

Riot police were key players in the bloody crackdown on the 1988 uprising in Burma in which around 3,000 protestors were killed.

Later, the military regime changed the name of the riot police force into police battalion.

Sources at the Myanmar Police Force agreed that the transfer might have been carried out to prepare for possible protests in the run-up to the elections.

The Burmese government has launched a crackdown on opposition groups in recent weeks, with estimates of up to forty people having been arrested.

A number of these were linked to the Lin Latt Kyae group that carried out relief work after cyclone Nargis last year. Others included journalists and artists.

The elections are considered to be highly controversial, with critics alleging that the 2008 constitution will entrench military rule in Burma.

A top-level United States delegation that visited Burma earlier this week urged the governemt to ensure elections were free and fair.

During meetings with ethnic party representatives, the delegation was told to concentrate its efforts on pressuring the junta to review the constitution before calling for democratic elections.

Burma's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi will likely be in detention during the elections, has not announced whether it will participate next year.

Reporting by Min Lwin

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