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Ahead of elections MRG calls on Burma to address marginalisation of minorities.

5 November 2010

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) warns that the elections in Burma risk increasing ethnic tensions and calls on the authorities to address the marginalisation of minority groups.

Burma’s military government has put in place laws and regulations to ensure that the outcome of the vote favours its continued rule, MRG says.

One tactic has been to cancel voting in areas of opposition among ethnic minorities in at least 312 village tracts, thereby disenfranchising about 1.5 million people.

‘Rigged elections cannot bring peace to Burma, nor legitimacy to a regime that uses violent repression against its own people,’ says Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications.

‘Minority groups have often borne the brunt of such repression, and many minorities are now completely excluded from the political process.’

While it appears the military regime is using the elections to further its agenda, MRG warns that disenfranchising ethnic minorities will only undermine security.

MRG says that regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s vote, the regime must bring minorities into the political process. The potential for stability lies not in continued military control, but in political representation for all groups that make up the country’s social fabric, the organisation says.

‘Rather than bringing a veneer of legitimacy to the Burmese regime, the elections risk inflaming ethnic tensions, which could lead to further conflict,’ Söderbergh added.

Burma has a population of approximately 50 million people. It is a country of enormous ethnic diversity, containing officially 135 major ethnic groups and seven ethnic minority states, in addition to seven divisions populated mainly by the Burmese majority. More than 100 languages are spoken in Burma. Minority ethnic groups are estimated to make up at least one-third of the country’s total population and to inhabit half the land area.

The main ethnic groups living in the seven ethnic minority states of Burma are the Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Karenni. Other main groups include the Nagas, who live in north Burma. To these long-established minorities should be added more recent arrivals, who now constitute substantial numbers in the country.

Note to editors

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