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The Burmese opposition is divided over whether to join or boycott this year’s general elections being promised by the military government.
The elections would be the first in 20 years when the opposition party the National League for Democracy victory was ignored by the military junta.
Ronald Aung Naing travel to the Thai border town of Mae Sot to speak with the different opposition groups ahead of the election.
We are still in Thailand but the main language you hear in this market is Burmese.
This is ‘little Burma’ home to many dissident and opposition groups exiled from their own country.
Among them is U Bo Thaung. In the last election he was elected as a member of parliament.
When the military government refuse to honor the results he became He the National League of Democracy – Liberated Area which formed in the jungle.
“Our party has decided to boycott the upcoming elections and we will stand firm in that position. I think it’s important that The ethnic forces, our party, the National League for democracy inside Burma as well as other democratic forces discuss carefully whether we should join the election or not.”
A heated debate is taking place amongst the opposition groups over whether to take part in the election.
Those against joining the elections say the vote and the new constitution are designed to legitimize the militaries grip on power.
Dr. Naing Aung is the Secretary General of Forum for Democracy in Burma, an alliance of exiled democratic groups.
“This constitution tries to provide the safe fortune for the army. It is totally designed to make the military regime cleared of the things they have done in the past and to make sure that the army is safe in future Burma.”
But some minority ethnic groups who have also opposed the government are taking a different stance.
Armed groups such as the Karen who are fighting against the government reject the elections but other ethnic groups believe the poll could be a chance for greater autonomy.
David Htaw is the General Secretary of the Ethnic Nationalities Council, an umbrella alliance of ethnic political groups in exile.
“There will be State Parliaments. There will also be people who are doing administrative duties in the state. So, the people in the ethnic States may have a chance to be elected into these positions. So people in ethnic States see this is as a good opportunity.”
He says some ethnic groups who have cease - fires with the government are preparing to take part in the election.
“The Kachin and Mon groups they support the formation of ethnic political parties which would represent their people. They are preparing to register political parties which they hope will lead to greater autonomy for their people.”
But he says ethnic parties will be running against a very powerful military machine.
“There will be parties that support the military and there will be proxies for the military. These people may infiltrate ethnic political parties or they will push ethnic leaders to join parties supported by government. They will try to draw votes away from the ethnic parties.”
Military backed orgainsation have already begun campaigning inside Burma.
Groups such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association have started providing free medical care, micro-credit loans and handing out donations for educational materials and building schools.
But, the party led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who won the 1990 election with a landslide has not made their stance clear.
At this stage that are demanding a free and fair election environment.
Moe Zaw Oo the spokesperson of the National League for Democracy - Liberated Area explains the stance of NLD party inside.
“The National League for Democracy only think about joining the election if the military regime releases all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, U Khun Htun Oo and other student leaders. And, if they review undemocratic parts of the 2008 constitution, and if they allow international monitoring groups to watch the elections and if the elections are free and fair, the National League for Democracy intend to participate in the elections only after NLD carefully observe the electoral law.”
With these different views amongst opposition groups political analysts says the outcome of this election will be very different from the last one twenty years ago.