Burma Government’s denial of NLD’s demands would make the Nat’l Convention undemocratic & incredible

The ongoing constitutional convention which started only last Monday (April 17, 2004) in Burma is not a roadmap to democracy but a “roadmap to another surefire disaster for the peoples of Burma.” There might be no other statements that could stand truer than this after the ruling State Peace and Development Council, the junta government of Burma, refused to grant the demands of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) that include the immediate release of democracy icon and NLD general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and party vice chairman Tin Oo and its failure to adopt significant reforms to the rules and procedures of convention.


The ongoing constitutional convention which started only last Monday (April 17, 2004) in Burma is not a roadmap to democracy but a “roadmap to another surefire disaster for the peoples of Burma.” There might be no other statements that could stand truer than this after the ruling State Peace and Development Council, the junta government of Burma, refused to grant the demands of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) that include the immediate release of democracy icon and NLD general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and party vice chairman Tin Oo and its failure to adopt significant reforms to the rules and procedures of convention.

The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) believes that the issue of Burma constitution should be ventilated into a fair and truly democratic venue. But because of the junta government’s casual disregard of the genuine democratic process in framing the new constitution and its rejection of the opposition’s demands, the move of the NLD to boycott the said accord is undoubtedly the most appropriate thing to do now.

Said boycott strips the charter talks of what little legitimacy it offered, since the NLD is the main opposition party. NLD was forced to boycott the charter talks because Aung San Suu Kyi and her Vice chair Tin Oo are still under house arrest. The SPDC brags this convention as a roadmap to democracy, but while it is acting as if it was the lone custodian of democracy, opposition leaders are being treated undemocratically.

What is then the sense of drafting a new constitution if it would become detrimental to the interests of the majority of Burma people? What is the use of having a constitution that would simply justify if not totally institutionalize the tenets of military dictatorship in Burma? And what benefits could the people of Burma get from a constitution designed by the military officials who, at the peak of their hypocrisy masqueraded themselves as lovers of democracy? Will it render justice to the victims of military rule? Will it give food, education and homes for the thousands of refugees, ethnic minorities and other poor people in Burma? These are the questions that require logical and honest answers.

For a fact, a massive crackdown on Burma’s democrats, activists and other human right advocates critical of the military regime was launched since SPDC’s announcement of a ‘roadmap’ to democracy in August 2003. Extensive human rights abuses, including: the sentencing to death of mediamen, the shooting of political prisoners and the arrest, imprisonment and torture of pro-democracy activists including women could reveal how the junta government massacred justice and democracy in Burma at every inch. Worse, days before the convention, six people including a lawyer and a student activist had their “first taste” of the so-called roadmap to democracy where they were given long prison sentences. Also, the government has reportedly subjected local reporters to “intimidation, imposed advance censorship.

In is in this context that IID is urging the Philippine government, as a democratic state and member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to make a stand on Burma issue. Without hesitation, it must join the international community in giving pressures to the age-old military government in Burma. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan along with Thailand and Malaysia have already expressed disappointments to the junta government not just on its refusal to give a broad democratic space in the ongoing national convention but also in its continuous employment of brute military force just to maintain its grip on power. Even diplomatic reps from the US and the EU chose not to attend the opening last Monday, indicating that they are also critical of the present convention.

We view that the absence of NLD and proper representation of the ethnic nationality parties in the process of framing the new constitution would simply make the Burma society pregnant with more human right violations. A “sanitized” National Convention, where only the few dictate the rule of law should not be allowed and a civilian rule and genuine democracy must reign at all costs. The release of NLD leader Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, the cessation of Burmese army attacks on the ethnic groups along the Thai border, and a nationwide ceasefire will be conditions that will pave the way for credible talks.

Lastly, IID believes that the ongoing convention, for it to become legitimate and beyond doubt should be geared in a tri-partite dialogue where the military, ethnic and opposition leaders should be given equal representations. The move of the SPDC that limit the talks between their representatives and handpicked delegates, could not, by any stretch of imagination render effective and sustainable means to achieve true and lasting peace, justice, democracy and independence in Burma.

Free Suu Kyi and all political prisoners!
Participation for NLD and the ethnic peoples!

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