Myanmar’s bogus electionMyanmar was once one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia. It was also the biggest rice exporter in the world - thanks to its fertile soil and a land mass almost three times as large as the Korean Peninsula - and has a 50 million-strong population and plentiful natural resources.
But now the country has become one of the most impoverished in the world, with a per capita income of a measly $571. Myanmar is also notorious for some of the worst corruption in the world, along with Somalia. What went wrong with the once-affluent country? The answer can be easily seen in the bogus general election held on Sunday.
The election, which was the first in 20 years, was allegedly free and fair, but actually it was devised and controlled by a military government that has ruled since 1962. Renowned opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was forbidden to cast a ballot and the government was deeply involved in all forms of restriction. Under these circumstances, it’s almost impossible for the people of Myanmar to get out of poverty and move their country forward.
The junta concocted the election on the pretext of handing power to a civilian-led government. Military leaders pretend that several political parties participated in the election. But it turned out to be an election aimed at prolonging government rule, and the country’s military leaders will just doff their uniforms and change into civilian clothes.
The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won an overwhelming victory. Meanwhile, the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, boycotted the election because it could not accept an election held while its leader was still under house arrest. In the previous general election in 1990, the NLD won a landslide victory, gaining 80 percent of all seats in the parliament - until the ruling junta nullified the results.
As voters protest the election, the situation could now be headed for bloodshed. Refusing to accept the election results, antigovernment rebel forces stationed along the border with Thailand have seized public buildings, including police stations and post offices. The Army immediately stepped in to put the rebellion down, causing many casualties in the process. The situation is getting worse, since about 20,000 Burmese have fled to Thailand. The junta blew a precious chance for the country to break away from its repressive past and march toward reform, opening and democracy.