Young people reportedly distributed leaflets condemning an upcoming, junta-controlled general election as illegitimate in Sittwe, Rakhine State, during a visit by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing this week.
The All Arakan Student and Youth Congress (AASYC), the group that organised the campaign, claimed that their members had circulated text messages denouncing the election for at least two days prior to Min Aung Hlaing’s arrival on March 31. The junta leader stayed in Sittwe, the state capital, for two days.
The leaflets, titled “Let’s oppose the false election to end enslavement by the junta,” were posted in central Sittwe, AASYC information officer Kaung Kyaw Zan said.
“The focus is to reject the fake election organised by the military council as a political sham. We don’t trust in an election where the entire population can’t participate.”
The leaflet’s text accuses the Myanmar military of trying to revive the dictatorship and the 2008 constitution, which guarantees significant power for the military in Myanmar’s government, and holding a fake election as a ploy to establish the military regime’s legitimacy.
The leaflet also argues that the aim of the election is to lend a veneer of legitimacy to a tyrannical military group on the international stage, and that anyone willingly participating in such an election is submitting to prolonged enslavement by dictators.
Kaung Kyaw Zan criticised political parties that had registered under the military junta to participate in the upcoming elections and avoid being dissolved, saying the military council induced them to register and that they had violated their own policies and integrity.
“They even convinced some Rakhine political party leaders who are popular with the public by offering them attractive positions. We are exposing their wicked political tactics to the public,” he said, referring to the junta.
Kaung Kyaw Zan commented that the upcoming election may not have much impact on the public at large since the Rakhine people have been familiar with the military’s methods of action since long before the coup, but that some officials are willing to negotiate with the military council to advance politically.
A former member of parliament from northern Rakhine State said on condition of anonymity that the Rakhine people, like many throughout the country, oppose the election organised by the military council, but that this was the first time they had protested by distributing anti-election leaflets.
“This is to express the desire in our hearts. They know it even if we don’t express it. How many people will support the election? Only a few people in Myanmar and the wider world. This is the most controversial kind of election, and the support for it is minimal,” he said.
The date that the military council will hold the election is still undecided, but 50 political parties, including the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, have re-registered in order to participate. Among the registered parties are some Rakhine political parties such as the Arakan National Party and the Arakan Front Party.
The military council announced on March 28 that 40 parties, including the National League for Democracy, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the Arakan League for Democracy, had been dissolved for failing to meet the military council’s criteria by the required deadline.