Civil war threatens following Burma's election

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 08/11/2010

Reporter: Zoe Daniel

A day after Burma's first election in 20 years, 10,000 people are believed to have fled when fighting broke out between the Burmese army and ethnic rebels on the border with Thailand.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Around 10,000 people have fled fighting on the border of Thailand and Burma a day after Burma's first election in 20 years.

The fighting broke out between the Burmese Army and ethnic rebels, and follows warnings that ethnic tensions could boil over into renewed civil war after the vote.

Votes are still being counted, but the election's designed to easily return the military government, though now in civilian form.

South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel reports.

ZOE DANIEL, REPORTER: Unfortunate, but not unexpected. Fighting broke out even before the last vote was cast.

Karen rebels are fighting the Burmese Army for control of the border town of Myawaddy. Today their campaign boiled over into Thailand, where a wayward grenade landed, injuring a number of people.

MAUNG ZARNI, EXILED BURMESE DISSIDENT: It's basically a challenging in a direct military way against the regime's army. And so I think this can, like, have a serious implication for the events that are to unfold.

ZOE DANIEL: Burma's repressed ethnic groups have been engaged in a long-running insurgency against the Government's army. Thousands of ethnic villagers were excluded from the election, and now six ethnic groups who've long opposed the junta have formed an alliance.

Today a market on the Burmese side of the border was hit with mortar fire and three people were killed, many were injured. The river bank on the Thai side of the border has now been evacuated.

There's real concern that next the Burmese military will crack down hard on rebels, bringing about a much worse conflict.

Burma's leaders say the full list of election results will be released in time. But with the main opposition banned, the junta's Union Solidarity and Development Party will win. It was the only one contesting all seats and the second largest party backs it too.

Before polls opened, there were claims even from the military supporters that rigged pre-voting was taking place, and during yesterday's election, with turnout as low as 40 per cent in some seats, allegations that ballot boxes were unsealed and stuffed with ballot papers.

U TIN AYE, MYANMAR DEMOCRATIC PARTY: For the ballots, they use many ways to cheat.

ZOE DANIEL: Only a handful of opposition and ethnic candidates will win seats. But exiled Burmese academic Win Min says the final numbers are important to the regime itself.

WIN MIN, EXILED BURMESE ACADEMIC: For the military, especially for General Than Shwe, it is important for him to win a landslide. In 1980, NLD won more than 82 per cent of the seats. So he's trying to break the record by just winning maybe 84 seats in the parliament for his legacy.

But, in reality, it is implausible unless the regime rig the vote.

ZOE DANIEL: A concerted international campaign for a free and fair election clearly failed. Now, the world community is contemplating whether engaging with the new government is worthwhile.

KEVIN RUDD, FOREIGN MINISTER: These elections have been far from free and far from fair. A number of democratic parties have participated and we will be watching very closely what emerges from the Burmese political process.

ZOE DANIEL: Thousands of Burmese refugees are fleeing across the Thai-Burma border tonight.

Zoe Daniel, Lateline.

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Civil war threatens following Burma's election

Civil war threatens following Burma's election

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