INDIANAPOLIS – When Elaisa Vahnie came to the United States in 2003, he was fleeing an oppressive military regime in Myanmar. Now, as his home country holds a new election on Sunday, he shares the hope many of his fellow Burmese feel.
“This is exciting. We want to hope that this will – there will be change after this election,” Vahnie said.
Indianapolis has one of the largest Burmese populations in the country with close to 15,000 immigrants calling the city home. Vahnie said Indianapolis has become a melting pot and gives many Burmese refugees the stability and job prospects they desire.
“The leadership [of Indianapolis] has created a culture where refugees can feel welcome,” Vahnie said. “They can call the community their home.”
Myanmar, or Burma as it’s sometimes referred to as, last held a democratic election in 1990. Unhappy with the results, the military regime disavowed the election. The military government agreed to a new constitution in 2008 and began to phase out their absolute government in 2011.
However, their presence will still be felt. The constitution reserves 25 percent of the seats in the country’s legislative body, the Hluttaw, for military representatives – a stipulation Vahnie and many Burmese feel is far from democratic.
But Vahnie acknowledges the military ultimately holds the key to the success of Myanmar’s newest election.
“It will be a critical moment that the military especially honor the results and, in good faith and open political will, they will implement the results,” Vahnie said.
Sunday’s election will only be for the Hluttaw which will then elect a president sometime next year.