Myanmar demonstrators urge military junta to allow democracy

Myanmar demonstrators urge

military junta to allow democracy

International Herald Tribune


About two dozen people held a rare protest in Myanmar’s largest city Tuesday to demand that the military junta listen to U.N. calls for the restoration of democracy.

The protesters – members of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy – gathered outside the party’s headquarters in Yangoon carrying banners reading, “Follow the U.N. resolution. Where are the 1990 election results?”

The protest, held as Myanmar celebrated Union Day, the anniversary of an agreement among ethnic groups paving the way for independence from British colonial rule, was watched by about 50 plainclothes police who photographed and videotaped participants.

The government announced last week that general elections will be held in 2010 following a referendum this May on a new constitution being written under the junta’s guidance that will ensure a major future role for the military.

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Human rights groups have denounced the referendum and election, saying they will prolong and institutionalize the military’s role as the country’s key power broker.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the junta on Monday to hold substantive talks with Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, without delay to ensure that the constitution represents all citizens.

He also urged the government to grant a visa to U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to allow him to visit Myanmar again in the very near future.

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Ban made clear that the United Nations is highly critical of the constitution-drafting process.

Critics denounced the national convention because most delegates were hand-picked by the military and Suu Kyi was excluded.

Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, some of which have been seeking greater autonomy for decades, say the new constitution will give the central government greater powers.

The guidelines guarantee the military 25 percent of the seats in the country’s parliament, to be nominated by the commander in chief. They also prohibit presidential candidates who are “entitled to the rights and privileges of a … foreign country,” thereby barring Suu Kyi, whose late husband was British.

Dissidents line up to fight

Myanmar constitution referendum

 Tuesday, February 12, 2008
By Ed Cropley, Reuters

MAE SOT, Thailand — A referendum on an army-made constitution in Myanmar will be a “major battlefield” between the junta and a people wanting to be rid of military rule, the country’s biggest dissident group said on Monday.

In a statement given to Reuters in the Myanmar-Thai border town of Mae Sot, the “88 Generation Students” — named after a brutally suppressed 1988 uprising — called on the former Burma’s 53 million people to reject the charter in the May vote.

“The regime is attempting to legalize the military dictatorship with a sham constitution,” said the group, whose leaders were jailed in last year’s protests.

“This is a declaration of war by the military regime against the people of Burma.”

The NLD has called the junta’s proposal — part of a seven-step “roadmap to democracy” unveiled in 2003 — “erratic” and highlighted the irony of announcing an election even before the result of the referendum.

Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner now living in Thailand, said that having been denied any chance of contributing to its creation, the NLD would be forced to reject a charter that appears to yield little ground to civilian rule.

Although not yet completed — let alone published — snippets in state-controlled media suggest the army commander-in-chief will be the most powerful figure in the country, able to appoint key ministers and assume power “in times of emergency.”

Bo Kyi said the 88 Generation and, in all probability, the NLD would campaign for a no vote to tell the generals they could not get away with introducing reform on their terms only, to the exclusion of all other points of view.

India asks Myanmar

to expedite reconciliation

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: India has reiterated its request to the Myanmar Government to accelerate moves towards a more inclusive democracy.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, during his two-day visit to Myanmar which ended on Sunday, conveyed New Delhi’s concern over the detained political activists including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the need to involve her more intimately in promoting political reconciliation.

The Myanmar Government has unveiled plans to hold a referendum on a new Constitution, which it has assured will form the basis for elections. But the political stalemate continues as Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has slammed the move to hold a referendum without holding consultations.

Mr. Menon pointed to the need for broad-based political reforms. In a departure from the position taken by the West, India opposes sanctions as it believes they would hit most the marginal and the destitute.

“The desire for sanctions is directly proportional to their distance from Myanmar,” a top Foreign Office recently observed about western demands for further isolating the country. India shares over 1,400 km of porous border with Myanmar that is still the staging post for insurgencies. It is also negotiating an access route through the country to its north-eastern States.

India has noted the movement towards reconciliation by Myanmar including four rounds of talks between a Government representative and Ms. Suu Kyi since the thaw in the military regime’s attitude about four months ago. Around the same time, Myanmar signalled its readiness for a discourse with multilateral institutions by permitting United Nations official Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to assess the human rights situation. Four years earlier his entry had been barred following a disagreement with the regime. Since then, the military regime led by Senior General Than Shwe has entered into sporadic contacts with U.N. officials.

New Delhi’s stand operates within the parameters defined by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: “We want political reforms and the process of reconciliation to start immediately and it has to be inclusive.As far as possible, important political prisoners should be rele ased.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party calls for

‘fair political climate’ in Myanmar

YANGON (AFP) — Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy on Tuesday urged the military government to create a “fair political climate,” after the regime announced a constitutional referendum for May.

The party did not directly mention the junta’s plans for a referendum, which is meant to clear the way for elections in 2010, but

  1. repeated its long-standing call for a dialogue with the junta on national reconciliation.
  2. “The (junta) has the main responsibility to realise national reconciliation, which is essential for the country,” the party said in a statement, read out by senior member Than Tun.
  3. “Moreover, it also has the responsibility to create a fair political climate and environment,” the statement added.
  4. The party also repeated its call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, as well as her deputy Tin Oo and 1,800 other political prisoners believed held in the country.

Tin Oo is also under house arrest, and the military is expected to announce an extension of his confinement this week.

A statement from Than Shwe was read out during the nationally televised ceremony, accusing western countries of using sanctions to derail the military’s “road map” to democracy.

The United States,  denounced the junta’s election time table as a “sham” vote that makes a mockery of global calls for democratic reforms.

If held, the proposed elections would be the first since 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta.

The regime announced its timetable for elections amid mounting international pressure over its crackdown on peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September, when the United Nations says at least 31 were killed.

But the generals have ignored calls to free Aung San Suu Kyi and open a political dialogue, instead sticking to their own “road map” plan, which critics say will enshrine the military’s rule.


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