It’s a quiet Thursday afternoon in Rangoon. A young activist treads the streets carefully. He sneaks a few glances around. He’s on a mission. And he must accomplish it. It’s important not to be spotted by the Special Branch Police (SBP), who are in turn difficult to be spotted — they always work under cover.
Cutting across a corner, he finds a good spot to start his work. He pulls out a poster from his bag, smears some glue on it and sticks it on the pillar along side. “You have the right to not vote” reads the poster with a picture of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the background. He admires the words on the poster. Satisfied with his first attempt at expressing his dissent publicly, he continues — he must empty his bagful of posters.
He is part of a young group of activists called Generation Wave (GW). The organisation’s main aim is to urge the people of Burma to boycott the elections, given the undemocratic nature of the 2008 Constitution; “We reject the 2008 constitution for being undemocratic and unfair. We want to make people aware of this fact and sticking posters in public places is a good way to get the word out,” spokesperson Min Yan Naing told DVB.
GW started off its campaign against the election commission on Thursday, which marked the beginning of International Youth Year. The average age in their camp is 23. 10 GW comrades accomplished their mission on Thursday, sticking posters in buses, pavements, parking lots, public rest rooms and lamp posts in Rangoon’s Dagon-Myo-Thit, Inn-Sein, Hlaing-Thar-Yar, Mingalardon, Bayint-Naung, Yazana Plaza, Dagon center areas.
“It is a huge risk we are taking, especially with the Special Branch Police officers patrolling under cover. But it is fortunate that none of our team members have faced any danger yet,” Naing says, adding that they are actually only endorsing the Election Commission’s diktat which states: “It is your right to vote or to abstain from the 2010 elections.”
GW opposes three major aspects of the 2008 constitution. Firstly, according to the Constitution, the Army has already secured 25 percent of the parliamentary seats irrespective of the outcome of the elections, giving them an unfair advantage in future parliamentary proceedings.
Secondly, the people of Burma will not directly affect the Presidential candidate, that right lies exclusively with the three vice-presidents — two of whom will be chosen by the two parliaments and one will be appointed directly by the military.
Finally, the lack of freedom to non-junta endorsing political parties to campaign prior to the elections makes it difficult for them to get their message across to the masses.
The move initiated by GW has been met with mixed responses. “Some people on the streets give us a look of approval, but in one of the areas, we saw that the posters had been ripped apart. We aren’t yet sure whether that was a junta-initiated drive,” Naing said.
With the election date being announced, Naing and clan have started working on their campaigns for 7, November 2010; “We have to chalk out a detailed plan, but right now our main aim will be to get on to the streets and persuade people to boycott the elections,” he said. In the run up to the election, Generation Wave hopes to form alliances with other democracy groups in order to extend their sphere of operation beyond Rangoon.