Persecuted millions denied a vote
Polls opened in Myanmar yesterday for a vote expected to return to power the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains a hero at home despite a reputation abroad shattered by the Rohingya crisis.
The election will be just the second since the South-East Asian nation emerged from nearly half a century of junta rule in 2011.
Doubts about the vote’s credibility are already overshadowing the election. Virtually all the 600,000 Rohingya Muslims remaining in the country – half of whom are of voting age – are stripped of citizenship and rights, including their chance to vote.
“This is an apartheid election,” said rights group Burma Campaign UK, adding the polls were “less free and fair than the last”.
Restrictions across many other ethnic minority areas mean some two million are disenfranchised from an electorate of 37 million.
Five years ago Suu Kyi’s
National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory, but was forced by the constitution into an uneasy power-sharing agreement with the military.
This time the civilian leader – in a bid to maintain an absolute majority – has implored citizens to overcome their fears of COVID-19 to turn out the vote.
Yesterday morning, voters wearing compulsory face masks and armed with hand sanitiser, lined up outside polling stations.