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Burma ‘s National Convention a “Farce”

CSW (10/11/06) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today condemns the National Convention in Burma , which reconvened yesterday, as a “blatant effort by the brutal military regime to rubber-stamp its rule and crush the opposition”. CSW calls on the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution, requiring Burma ’s junta to engage in dialogue with pro-democracy and ethnic nationality groups, and to release all political prisoners.

Burma ’s ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), first convened the National Convention in 1993 to draft a constitution, and the process has been suspended several times since then. Yesterday, the final session began, with 1,088 delegates, mostly handpicked by the military.

The National Convention excludes main representatives of most ethnic nationality groups and the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose leader, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, marked 4,000 days in house arrest on 9 October.

During a CSW visit to Burma last month, none of the people interviewed expressed any confidence that the National Convention will lead to federal democracy or respect for human rights. SPDC Order 5/96 warns that anyone criticising the National Convention could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma , Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, described the National Convention as “surrealistic” and “meaningless and undemocratic”, adding: “it will not work on the moon, [it] will not work on Mars!” The UN General Assembly has called for a “genuinely inclusive” constitution-drafting process.

CSW’s National Director, Stuart Windsor, says: “The world should know that Burma ’s regime is engaged in a farcical attempt to legitimise its authority and put a civilian face on a brutal military. It is a blatant effort by the regime to rubber-stamp its rule and crush the opposition. A rigged constitution will be followed by a rigged referendum and rigged elections, in which the military will have a third of the parliamentary seats already reserved for them. This is a regime guilty of crimes against humanity, attempted genocide and suppression of religious freedom. The UN should investigate these crimes and bring the junta to justice. The UN Security Council must now pass a binding resolution, requiring the SPDC to engage in tripartite dialogue with pro-democracy and ethnic nationality groups, and move towards a genuine transition to federal democracy. We will go on campaigning for this until it is achieved.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Elections held in 1990 were overwhelmingly won by the NLD, but the regime refused to accept the results and has imprisoned most of the victors.

2. The SPDC has been expanding the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), a civilian front for the military, to contest future elections. In 2003 the USDA attacked Aung San Suu Kyi’s convoy in Depayin, almost killing her. They beat 100 of her supporters to death.

3. In the last month, the Burma Army has increased the number of troops involved in the offensive against the Karen people. There are now between 60 and 70 battalions involved in the attacks on Karen villages and the hiding places of displaced people. Four more people have also been killed by the Burma Army, including a 75 year old man in Ler Kla Der village, two villagers in See Pwe Go village and a 48 year old man in They Baw Der village. One man was shot in Ger Wah Ko village, but it is not known whether he survived the attack.