The Ghost of Elections Past
By KO KO THETT Monday, May 31, 2010

(Page 2 of 2)

Perhaps the thakins’ failure in parliamentary politics also contributed to the strategy formulation of the Dobama. In 1938, the Marxist-Leninist thakin spearheaded a general strike to paralyze the British administration, but failed.

As most thakin leaders were jailed or outlawed, Burma nationalist movement took an unexpected turn at the onset of the Second World War. The Japanese occupation of Burma, assisted by the thakin-led Burmese army, from 1942 to 1945 was as devastating as it was elsewhere in Asia.  

The worst thing that had happened to Burma during the Japanese occupation was the exacerbation of the ethnic conflict, especially that between the Burman and the Karen, fuelled by the war. As the British reoccupied Burma following the Japanese defeat, parliamentary democracy was reintroduced. The Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), a broad alliance of nationalists dominated by the thakin who had turned against the Japanese, became the most formidable opposition party in the post-war years.

In April 1947, an election to the constituent assembly was held under the 1935 election law. The AFPFL claimed the election was a British attempt to defuse the post-war political tensions in the country to prolong their colonial rule. To the AFPFL, which had the largest mass following in Burma at the time, 1947 was an opportune moment to become involved in legislative politics in what Aung San called “a transition to independence.” The AFPFL entered the election to the echoes of its slogan, “Independence within one Year!”
But many politicians who had been influential in prewar parliamentary politics—such as Dr. Ba Maw from the Maha-Bama (Great Burman) Party, and U Saw of the Myochit (Patriotic) Party, as well as many former thakin, such as Thakin Ba Sein (Dobama Party) and Thakin Soe (Communist Party of Burma “Red Flag”)—boycotted the election for different reasons. The Karen National Union also stayed away.

The remaining opposition parties, including the Communist Party of Burma (Thakin Than Tun’s “White Flag”) and the Karen Youth Organization, could only field less than 30 candidates for the 255-member assembly.

The result was predictable, but it had been made certain by the widespread intimidation of voters by pro-AFPFL militia, the People’s Voluntary Organization (PVO), which came into existence as the result of the post-war British retrenchment of the Burma Independence Army.

British scholar Shelby Tucker notes: ‘‘Armed PVO units dragooned voters and escorted them to the polling booths that were guarded by other armed PVO units, while League supporters manned the government-provided electoral information facilities.’’

It was customary for the political parties in Burma to have an armed wing, but the PVO was the biggest armed group that could be turned into a nationalist army against the British. The League won more than 95.3 percent of the seats and dominated the constituent assembly without much opposition. In June 1947, the assembly approved Aung San’s motion that an independent Burma should exist outside the Commonwealth. It also approved a draft of what would be known as the 1947 Constitution, proposed by Aung San.
Postwar Burmese politics were dominated by the AFPFL and its charismatic leader, Aung San, who was only 32 in 1947. Widely considered to be asocial and rash, he was unable to convince his senior political rivals to swing his way.

Consequently, most of Aung San’s opposition was effectively excluded from the parliament and from the policymaking process that would determine Burma’s future as an independent nation. The assassination of Aung San and six of his cabinet members in July 1947 left the entire country in mourning.

Aung San’s colleague U Nu (formerly Thakin Nu) took over the AFPFL and delivered Aung San’s promise of “Independence within one Year.” In January 1948, Burma became independent under U Nu and his government; they were undoubtedly apprehensive, but the country rejoiced and there was an air of hope for the future.

Ko Ko Thett is a Helsinki-based Burma analyst. This is the first of three articles he has written for The Irrawaddy on Burma's previous elections.

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A.M.O Wrote:
Yes, the 'Ghost of elections' will haunt those in Burma's power players like Than Shwe & his cronies, who are ignorant of a Burmese poet's line:- "A king's ruling span is somewhat like a bubble form & burst in the ocean - so short, that is".

And, similar to 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'(the Scottish play), present power players shall be haunted by the ghosts of people killed during their reign of twenty years, such as:-

- Gen Ne Win(who died under house arrest)
- Victims of Depayin (few dozens killed)
- Victims of Buddhist monk crisis
- Victims of Nargis(inaction to save lives)
- Other covert killings(only power players themselves could know)

As in Macbeth, Is there a witch who will predict -'none of woman born shall harm Macbeth'?

Yeyint Wrote:
It is interesting to read more of his articles on the 2010 election. What he's gonna say again? As far as I know, he was sacked by the Forum of Burmese in Europe (FBE) because he supported the regime's sham election of 2010.

Soe Thane Wrote:
Excellent reminder that we have been very good at boycotting, saying 'no', opposing, and denouncing anything that we don't like 100% or don't lead ourselves.

For us (Burmese), it's either our way, or no way.

Where has that led us? To this moment, for which no Burmese person can be proud.

I'm really getting sick of all of them, from Than Shwe to ASSK. They are all the same.

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