In three short weeks, Myanmar (formerly Burma) will hold its first national elections in two decades. Regretfully, the polls will be overshadowed by a backdrop of political repression and fear.
Many of Myanmar's 50 million people live in poverty and suffer from ongoing human rights violations. Those who express dissenting views face harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture, imprisonment and sometimes even executions. And political prisoners now number over 2,200.
When elections were last held in 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a resounding victory, but the military government ignored the election results and arrested scores of opposition activists. This has haunted the government both domestically and internationally ever since.
With new elections, Myanmar had an opportunity to place the 1990 elections firmly behind them. However the new election has already been tainted as in June political parties were banned from undertaking campaigning activities that could "harm security, the rule of law and community peace". This provision is so broad that it allows for the criminalization of peaceful political activity.
For decades, the government has used vaguely worded security laws to suppress peaceful political dissent and there is a real fear that activists, especially those from ethnic minorities and the NLD, which is boycotting the elections, will come under increased repression as the election approaches.
Myanmar's government must halt its repression of activists. The people of Myanmar must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association throughout the election period and beyond.
Join us in using this opportunity to call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.