This Weekend, All Eyes on Myanmar

Update (November 5): Government attacks on freedoms compromises elections (AI Press Release)

This Sunday, Myanmar will hold its first national election in twenty years. Considering the authorities ongoing restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, its outcome is expected to be deeply flawed. Many people, including political prisoners, have been banned from voting. The UN and international human rights groups have called on Myanmar to release over 2,100 political prisoners.

A student activist from the 1988 generation, leads a crowd of demonstrators in a chant of 'Free Burma'. Trafalgar Square, London 2007. (c) AI

Ethnic tensions have also risen. The junta has barred voting in about 3,400 villages and some ethnic candidates or parties have been barred from participation. Additionally, no foreign media will be allowed to cover the election. Only some diplomats and UN representatives based in Myanmar will be allowed to observe the vote.

The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, announced last March that it would boycott the elections. The group, which won the 1990 elections but was denied power, is led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta has kept Suu Kyi under either house arrest or detention for over 14 of the past 20 years.

In case you will be in San Francisco this Friday, come to Amnesty International’s rally in support of human rights in Myanmar!


The people had clearly voiced their aspirations in the 1990 election, but the government has ignored the results. Now is the opportunity for the public to retaliate for what the government had done in 1990—Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as quoted through her lawyer Nyan Win

It is clear the process remains deeply flawed. The conditions do not show that these elections will be inclusive, free and fair. The potential for these elections to bring meaningful change and improvement to the human rights situation in Myanmar remains doubtful—UN human rights envoy for Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana

Background Info

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About Christoph Koettl

Christoph Koettl is the Emergency Response Manager at Amnesty International USA and works on urgent human rights situations such as armed conflicts. In his work he focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human rights, specializing in utilizing satellite imagery or citizen video for human rights research and advocacy. He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, crisis mapping, video validation and social media forensics and he is a regular speaker on technology and human rights. He has testified on war crimes in Sri Lanka before the United States Congress and his work is covered regularly by numerous national and international media, including Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters.
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