The Myanmar military junta is continuing to crank up their effort and laying further groundwork to hold a sham election, presumably in two years. This follows their previous failed plan to hold a so-called election in August 2023 as initially announced. This sham election is a long-anticipated junta plan that has been pre-calculated since the failed coup as their exit strategy for the return to “normalcy” and the resumption of international recognition. International actors must remain vigilant to the junta’s deceptive plans. The world must not yield to the temptation to recognize and support the junta’s hoax election, but unequivocally denounce all efforts toward it.
Laying the groundwork for the sham illegal election, starting this month, the junta is conducting a pilot census in 20 townships, stating that it is a necessary step before a proposed nationwide vote. Yet, given the lack of control the junta has in most parts of the country, and the absence of authority, legality and ability to conduct either an election or census, it is rather transparent that this data collection is more likely to be used as a tool of surveillance of those in Myanmar than to ensure any free or fair election.
Furthermore, the junta has sent their Union Election Commission (UEC) and their associates to form alliances to support their election plan. China opened its door for a member of the junta’s UEC, Than Tun, earlier in September, while the junta’s immigration minister, Myint Kyaing, sought China’s technical assistance for the census and related surveillance. As a result of the China visit, the junta is rolling out the e-ID system to acquire people’s biometric data, an aggressive surveillance tool that further threatens the security and privacy of people in Myanmar, in addition to other existing China-supported monitoring systems. In the same month, the junta’s UEC, led by its chairman Thein Soe, paid a visit to Russia and signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s Central Election Commission. Similarly, in July, Thein Soe observed the Cambodian general election; an election which was denounced by world democracies and human rights groups as neither free nor fair.
Such measures to shore up international support for the sham election are a façade that is in complete contrast to the current realities in Myanmar. Rather than gaining enough control or any authority in the country to even start thinking about an election plan, the junta leadership is collapsing while their troops are losing ground control to rising resistance forces. This was exemplified by Karen Peace Support Network’s recent report, A Shifting Power Balance: Junta Control Shrinks in Southeast Burma, which provides that, “The junta’s ability to control southeast Burma has significantly diminished, both militarily and in terms of governance.” Backing this argument, the report data shows the military junta had so far lost 62 military camps. Meanwhile, the junta’s key logistic routes between Yangon and Naypyidaw, which are routinely utilized to resupply their bases and carry out offensive attacks against resistance movements, are under direct threat from the Karen National Union and its allies.
It is crucial for the international community to remember: the sham election is nothing more than the junta’s futile attempt to gain legitimacy, a false narrative to normalize the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, and a plan to evade justice and accountability for all of the atrocity crimes that the military junta and their associated groups have committed against the people of Myanmar. The junta’s illegal and unconstitutional election plan will never resolve the intensifying crisis, but rather fuel the horrendous violence and suffering of people across the country. It absolutely will not bring any semblance of stability, peace, justice or human rights to Myanmar. This is in addition to the unmistaken fact that the people of Myanmar have already cast their votes in the 2020 general elections – whose legitimate results are manifest in the National Unity Government’s governance of Myanmar since then.
Amid the crisis, the Spring Revolution has clearly demonstrated, in contrast to the junta’s hollow attempt at a “democratic transition,” the people’s unity and ability to foster political cohesion across and between ethnic, sectoral and class divisions and establish coordinated governing bodies. These steps are fundamental building blocks towards constructing a genuine federal democracy – the new Myanmar for which the people are striving. This significant and widespread grassroots people’s movement is the only pathway to achieve sustainable peace in the building of federal democracy in Myanmar.
Rather than pushing for dialogue with the murderous junta, which will counteract the people’s efforts to achieve federal democracy, the international community must unequivocally denounce the junta’s revival of its sham election plan and deny the junta any political, technical or financial support. In addition, all activities that may be perceived as lending legitimacy to the military junta, such as visiting and inviting junta-affiliated delegations, must stop immediately. Instead, the international community must urgently provide political and practical support for the people’s revolution and their aspirations for federal democracy, justice and human rights in Myanmar. For the people of Myanmar, elections are meaningless and unacceptable without justice for the survivors and victims of crimes committed by the Myanmar military.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
By Burma Campaign UK
By CIVICUS and Burma Human Rights Network
By Legal Action Worldwide
By Shan Human Rights Foundation
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
By Karen Peace Support Network
By Justice For Myanmar
By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
By United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”