Myanmar Parties Told They Need Junta OK Before Speaking to Foreigners

By The Irrawaddy 15 August 2022

The Myanmar military regime has barred political parties from speaking with international organizations or foreigners without permission from its electoral body.

The junta’s Union Election Commission (UEC) issued a notice on Aug. 11 requiring political parties to seek its prior approval before meeting foreign organizations and individuals.

Citing sections 407 (c) and 408 of the military-drafted 2008 constitution, and Section 6 (f) of the Political Parties Registration Law, the UEC warned that any parties failing to follow the instruction face dissolution.

The articles say a political party will have its registration revoked “if it directly or indirectly receives and expends financial, material and other assistance from a foreign government, a religious association, other association or a person from a foreign country.”

Political parties have criticized the move, calling it an attempt to directly control their international relations.

U Ko Ko Gyi, the chairman of the People’s Party, said: “It is normal for political parties to hold talks and have external relations. There are no laws and rules that bar such a meeting. And the notice didn’t specify how many days it will take to reply. Does that mean we are not allowed to meet until it replies or issues an approval? It is quite unreasonable that we will be considered to have breached the law just by meeting them.”

Political parties also pointed out that the new instruction could make them subject to abolition if they meet international media agencies.

After declaring a state of emergency following its takeover, the military reconstituted the UEC, appointing U Thein Soe as its chairman. U Thein Soe served as the judge advocate-general under the previous military regime, and was the chairman of the inaugural election body formed under the 2008 constitution to hold the general election in 2010.

U Thein Soe’s UEC canceled the results of the 2020 general election, which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landside.

The junta’s UEC has accused foreign embassies in Myanmar, international nongovernmental organizations and their affiliated local civil society organizations of having intervened in the 2020 election.

The regime has promised a new election in August next year, and also announced a plan to switch from the current first-past-the-post electoral system to the proportional representation system.

An NLD member refused to comment on the UEC’s directive, saying the party does not recognize the electoral body of the junta, as it seized power unfairly.