Opposition parties in Burma are planning to jointly protest alleged election fraud as the ruling military junta-backed party claimed big wins in the country's first polls in 20 years.
Results of the Nov. 7 polls are only expected in a week, according to the junta, but its proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said it had won in 37 of the 45 townships in the former capital Rangoon alone.
Except for deputy health minister Paing Soe, all the incumbent ministers have been elected, said USDP official Tin Maung Win.
Khin Maung Swe, founder of the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), described the alleged election irregularities, such as the stuffing of last minute "advance" votes, as "daylight robbery."
"We are going to boycott the results and if need be, boycott the parliament," Khin said. "The NDF is trying to get other parties to join the campaign."
NDF chairman Than Nyein said an official complaint would be filed with the junta-appointed Election Commission after the party collected information from all areas it had fielded candidates.
Candidates registering a complaint need to deposit the equivalent of U.S. $1,000, a costly sum in a country where one-third of the people live in poverty.
Fraud complaints are also unlikely to be investigated by the junta which has locked up 2,200 political activists, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi whose party won the last elections in 1990 but was barred from taking power.
"Our party, together with all parties, will file a complaint and explain our evaluation of the elections," said Thu Wai, chairman of the Democrat Party (Myanmar).
"There was vote rigging and irregularities," he complained. "We are collecting evidence."
"We won the ballot but lost in advance votes," added Aung Than, chairman of the Democracy and Peace Party.
As western powers criticized what they called the sham elections, China's one-party government praised the junta for holding the polls.
"This is a critical step for Myanmar (Burma) in implementing the seven-step road map in the transition to an elected government, and thus is welcome," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. The election had been carried out in a "steady and smooth manner," he said.
Rebel positions shelled
Meanwhile, some 20,000 refugees from Burma who fled into neighboring Thailand following post-election clashes between government forces and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in the border areas were streaming back home as fighting subsided, welfare groups said.
But the situation remained tense as junta forces pounded positions of the ethnic minority rebel group at the Three Pagodas Pass area.
The junta used two planes to bombard rebel hideouts, a rebel spokesman said.
The DKBA is a breakaway group of Buddhist former soldiers and officers of the Karen National Liberation Army, one of the larger insurgent armies in Burma, which has been under virtually continuous military rule since 1962.
The DKBA has backed the junta, but a faction split off in protests against the military plans to bring under its control some of the ethnic group armies, which currently act as border guards as part of a ceasefire agreement.
The junta has regained control of the town of Myawaddy from the DKBA on the Burmese side of the border with Thailand. The rebel seizure of the town led to the fighting.
Two key ethnic minority groups—the Democratic Alliance of Burma and the National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization of 11 armed rebel groups—said they were ready to back the DKBA in the fight for greater autonomy in their areas.
"The current battles are for the campaign for democracy, equality, and self determination," said the Democratic Alliance of Burma.
Several key ethnic groups have denounced the junta's weekend election as a ploy to end their struggle for autonomy under a federal system.
Reported by Tin Aung Khine, Zaw Moe Kyaw, Khin Khin Ei, and Larry Jagan for RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Soe Win. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.