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We heard last week on Asia Calling that there are divisions amongst opposition groups in Burma over whether to boycott the government’s planned elections later this year.
This week we hear what the average Burmese person feels about the upcoming poll.
Ronald Aung Naing has been speaking with people in the border town of Mae Sot.
It is not easy for foreign journalists to speak with the Burmese people due to media restrictions and the military Junta’s overall suspicion of publicity.
However, there is a place on the border of Burma and Thailand where you can talk freely.
I am at the world renowned clinic of Dr Cynthia Maung. Poor people from across Burma travel across the Thai border to receive free quality medical care here.
Twenty five year old Zaw Zaw is from Rangoon. He says he knows very little about the coming election.
However his experience voting in the 2008 constitutional referendum makes him wary.
“When we voted, we had to vote according to what we were told. Our minds were changed and we had to do what the authorities told us to do.”
The last election in Burma was 20 years ago. The National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory but the military has never allowed them to rule.
Daw Aye Thein from the Mon State fears that this year’s elections are a sham designed to entrench the junta’s rule further.
“If I get the chance to vote, I will vote. But, I think it’s not going to change anything. I might not even vote because they have been lying to us for a long time. Even when we won the election so evidently, they lied to us. This time, there will be more lies.”
But, if there is a change, she says one of the things she wants to see is freedom of the press.
“It is good if the government opens up the press. If newspapers and journals can be independent it would help to improve people’s lives. People will learn new things and their minds will be opened. The human rights situation will improve and the country will develop.”
However, others have a more conservative expectation of change.
Thirty-three year old Htun Htun Naing is a construction worker from Irrawaddy Delta, where the deadly cyclone hit in early 2008.
“I will be satisfied if we can move about freely to do our own businesses. What’s happening now is, even though we are citizens of Burma and we have IDs, we can’t travel all over the country. We are checked and we are not allowed to travel freely. We have to pay for everything. We are facing difficulties surviving ourselves as we have to pay the corrupt officials.”
People say while they don’t really understand the politics of the election they know what they want and what they need.
Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a trishaw driver. He had an accident in border town of Myawaddy while he was looking for a job. His hometown is in the upper part of Burma- in the Sagaing Division.
“The new government should take care of public health What is happening in Burma now is although they say these are public hospitals, we have to pay as soon as we pass the first gate of the hospital. In the hospitals in Burma, we have to pay allot of money for everything ourselves.”
Burmese people seem pessimistic about the change this election could bring about
They believe, in the end, their votes will be tainted by the influence of the military.
But Htun Htun Naing says whatever happens his family will keep supporting the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“I will vote. I will vote for our “Mother Suu Kyi”. As before, I believe only in “our mother Suu”. Our family supports her. Even though she is out of touch, we will vote for her.”
But her party has not yet decided if they will take part in the election.
They say unless the process is free and fair they will boycott the poll and at this stage it looks like Aung Sann Suu Kyi herself will be in prison when the vote takes place.