MPs from Southeast Asia condemn the Myanmar junta’s parties registration law as an assault on democracy


MPs from Southeast Asia condemn the Myanmar junta’s parties registration law as an assault on democracy

JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia have condemned the new Political Parties Registration Law passed by the Myanmar military junta as an assault on democracy, drafted by an illegitimate authority, and designed to favor its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), ahead of the sham elections planned for this year.

The new law, passed on 26 January, imposes a series of criteria to register parties that are extremely difficult to meet for most of the 91 political organizations currently registered in Myanmar, except for the USDP. For instance, according to Article 5(f), national parties are under the obligation to mobilize at least 100,000 members, 100 times more than the previous law, in 90 days, an impossibility given the instability and chaos that general Min Aung Hlaing threw the country into with the illegal coup he staged two years ago.

Now parties have two months to register under these draconian conditions, or they will be dissolved and declared illegal. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party in government at the time of the takeover in February 2021, has announced its refusal to recognize the new law and the election commission. But other parties may face dissolution if the junta determines they have contacted a “terrorist organization,” including the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), set up to fight against the junta, or the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG).

“This law goes against all democratic principles not only because of its contents, specifically designed to make the military proxy USDP the only viable political party, but also because who has passed it. The junta led by Min Aung Hlaing has no legitimacy whatsoever to rule the country after an illegal coup d’état and two years of continuous atrocities against its own population, let alone to enact any law. The international community, starting with ASEAN, should condemn this new law in the strongest possible terms,” said Charles Santiago, Co-chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), and former Member of Parliament in Malaysia.

The new law has been passed ahead of the general election planned by the junta this year. According to the 2008 Myanmar Constitution, the state of emergency that was put in place by the junta after its coup on 1 February can only last two years, after which the government has the obligation to hold new elections.

Over this period, Min Aung Hlaing and his generals have unsuccessfully attempted to consolidate its power in the face of widespread popular resistance to military rule. The junta is perpetrating crimes against humanity against its own people on a daily basis, including extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate aerial attacks against entire villages, arbitrary detentions and torture, often to death, of anyone deemed to be working with the opposition.

According to the local organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), there are 13,689 political prisoners in the country, and the junta has killed at least 2,894 people, with the real numbers likely several times higher. This all-out war waged by the junta against its own people has displaced hundreds of thousands, and ruined the Myanmar economy, creating a humanitarian catastrophe of gigantic proportions.

“In the terrible conditions currently prevailing in Myanmar, it is completely impossible to hold an election, especially if it is organized by the very same junta that created such conditions in the first place. This election is nothing but a desperate attempt by Min Aung Hlaing to legitimize his power, and will only result in even further bloodshed. The Myanmar people are not fooled by the junta’s electoral charade, and the international community should not be fooled either. It is imperative that international actors refuse to recognize the elections, and Min Aung Hlaing’s junta itself, and begin to seriously engage the democratic opposition in seeking the solution to the crisis in Myanmar,” said Santiago.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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