2/11/08

'Burma's Announced Referendum and Election a Charade'

Dear All,

"We released a press release today condemning Burma's military junta for their announcement to legalize the new constitution. This new constitution is a ploy to formally legalize the military's hold on power. Some may see the military's announcement for a referendum and then elections as progress, but it is actually a gross step backwards.

"The promised vote continues the military regime's process of consolidating its grip on power. It is not a real referendum, it is a charade," said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma.

The announcement by the regime comes one week after the leader of Burma's democracy movement, imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, said that democracy activists should "prepare for the worst." The regime's move also comes four months after a massive crackdown on Buddhist monks, student activists, and members of Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy.

"How can the regime hold a vote when the entire opposition is locked up behind bars?" added Aung Din, who was imprisoned for four years as a political activist in Burma.

Burma's regime also announced it would hold a multi-party election in 2010 to follow this year's planned referendum. The new constitution would grant supreme power to the commander in chief of the Burmese military, effectively forestalling any progress toward democracy. The underground coalition of Buddhist monks and students that organized nationwide demonstrations in September 2007 have already criticized the plan, calling it an effort to legalize military rule and sideline the legitimately elected leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The NLD won 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma's last election, a landslide victory that the regime has blocked from governing. Human rights activists see the upcoming votes as a way for the regime to erase the NLD's electoral victory while cementing its own grip on power.

The referendum process stands in stark contrast to a call by the United Nations Security Council on October 11th, 2007 for the regime to participate in meaningful negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD and the ethnic representatives. Additionally, 29 consecutive resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly, Commission on Human Rights, and Human Rights Council have called for "tri-partite" talks between the regime, NLD, and Burma's ethnic minorities. Instead of heeding the UN, the regime appears to be taking a one-sided approach and refusing to participate in genuine talks.

Observers expect the military will mobilize the "Union Solidarity and Development Association" and "Swan Arr Shin" to force the people to vote for its constitution. The two organizations have led brutal attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the NLD, and Buddhist monks that have left hundreds of activists dead and thousands imprisoned.

Burma's regime is among the worlds most brutal. The regime has locked up over 2,000 political prisoners including hundreds of students, Buddhist monks, and the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. The regime has also recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, more than any other country in the world, and destroyed 3,200 villages in eastern Burma, forcing 1.5 million people to flee their homes as refugees."

Support 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Burma.
Become a member of the United States Campaign for Burma today.
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from US Campaign for Burma

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