Saturday, 6 November 2010

Burma's voters discuss election with caution

Sunday's election – the country's first in a generation – brings limited hope for ordinary Burmese

In the back corner of the teashop, a soldier from the rebel Mon National Liberation Army, unarmed and temporarily out of uniform, has come down from the territory his troops control in the mountains bordering Thailand to see the election's progress.
The MNLA and the government have been on ceasefire for years, but the solder believes the junta will attack again soon, consolidating an election win by taking back the huge tracts of land the Mon and other rebel armies control.
Mon army generals recently ordered the shooting on sight of any government troops caught near Mon-controlled territory. But any fight would be hopeless. Soldiers in the Mon army number about 700. The government can mobilise 400,000 troops.
"The [junta's] generals only understand force," he says. "The world must use force against our government. American politicians come to talk, [the UN secretary-general] Ban Ki-moon comes to talk, but it does nothing."
The soldier says Burma's national flag was changed two weeks ago from one featuring 14 stars – representing the seven provinces of Burma and the seven major ethnic groups – to a green, red and yellow striped standard with a single white star.
In a country where election dates are set and decisions to build a new capital city are taken on the advice of astrologers, the star is significant.
"It means they want one Burma, one people. They want only [ethnic] Burmese in this country. They want to kill people … who are not the same. They want to wipe us out."

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