RANGOON — Human Rights Watch has called for Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) to stop “intimidating” the country’s main opposition party, and accused the commission’s chair of showing bias in favor of the military.
In a statement Wednesday, the New York-based group said the government should abandon proposed restrictions on campaigning in future elections, and noted the UEC’s warning to National League for Democracy Chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi over a speech she gave at a constitutional reform rally in Mandalay last month.
The UEC claimed in a letter to Suu Kyi that the opposition leader had breached constitutional rules and an oath she gave as a parliamentarian by challenging the military to allow the charter to be amended.
“It’s truly scandalous that the electoral commission is threatening a political party for violating a regulation that doesn’t exist,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted saying.
“It’s even worse that the threat is about a political speech on the future direction of the country.”
“The electoral commission should immediately stop intimidating opposition parties and threatening free expression in Burma,” Human Rights Watch said in the statement.
The group targeted UEC Chairman Tin Aye, a former general in Burmese army who was elected to be a lawmaker for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party before being appointed by President Thein Sein as head of the election body.
Human Rights Watch said the chairman “has made numerous remarks in recent months that demonstrate a pro-military bias.
“In April, he defended the constitutional provision guaranteeing 25 percent of parliamentary seats to serving military officers, claiming the quota was needed to avert any future coup.
“He also promised that the 2015 elections would be free and fair, but would be conducted in ‘disciplined democracy style,’ using rhetoric closely associated with past Burmese military governments,” the statement said.