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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2736

United States Congress Rejects Burmese Military Junta’s Constitution

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 02 May (Asiantribune.com): The United States House Committee on Foreign Relations Wednesday, April 30 approved a Congressional Resolution, introduced by Democratic Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), that calls for the United Nations Security Council not to accept the constitution, written by the Burmese military junta or to recognize the outcome of the May 10 constitutional referendum.

Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman and Senior Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cosponsored the Resolution and it has the support of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. The resolution, which has 50 total cosponsors, awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

“I thank members of the Foreign Affairs Committee for supporting this resolution and sending a signal to the Burmese people that we are fully behind them in their righteous struggle for democracy,” Holt said. “I am hopeful that the United States, joined by the United Nations, can shed more light on the human rights abuses of Burma’s military junta and their ruthless measures to hold on to power.”

The resolution, sent to the full House, denounces the one-sided, undemocratic, and illegitimate constitution drafting process and referendum by the Burmese military junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), insists the SPDC engage in a tripartite dialogue with democracy forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic representatives, and demands the immediate and unconditional releases of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners. It also urges President Bush to call for the UN Security Council to not accept and recognize the SPDC’s constitution, pass a binding resolution which will enforce the SPDC to comply with recommendations made by the UN, and impose a global arms embargo.

Holt introduced the resolution after the SPDC rejected all recommendations made by the United Nations: establishing an all-party inclusive transparent process of constitution writing; establishing a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi; releasing all political prisoners; establishing a broad-based poverty alleviation commission, opening an office in Rangoon for the UN Special Envoy; and accepting UN assistance to help ensure the referendum is free and fair.

Following is the full text of the Resolution:

Concurrent Resolution, Condemning the Burmese regime's undemocratic constitution and scheduled referendum.

Whereas in 1974, then dictator General Ne Win and his regime had redrawn the 1947 State Constitution and held a referendum for a military-backed constitution, endorsing a civilian front for military rule, known as the Burmese Socialist Program Party;

Whereas in 1988, the people of Burma came to the streets in a massive popular democracy uprising to call for democracy, human rights, and an end to military rule and a single party system;

Whereas the current military regime violently crushed the mass democracy uprising in 1988, killing more than 3,000 peaceful protesters and took over power from the previous regime;

Whereas the current military regime, officially known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), known previously as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), held multi-party elections in 1990;

Whereas despite the threat and pressure by the military regime to vote for the candidates of the military-backed National Unity Party (NUP), the people of Burma voted 82 percent of Parliament seats for the candidates of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and its allied ethnic political parties;

Whereas the military regime refused to honor the election results and arrested and imprisoned both democracy activists and elected members of parliament;

Whereas the SPDC over a period of 14 years held a National Convention to draft a new constitution in which the process was tightly controlled, repressive and undemocratic;

Whereas the NLD walked out of the convention in 1995 because no one was allowed to table alternative proposals or voice any disagreement with the military regime;

Whereas in 2005, the leaders of the Shan Nationalities League of Democracy (SNLD) were all arrested on false charges and sentenced to more than 90 years in prison each;

Whereas the people of Burma, led by democracy activists and Buddhist monks in August and September 2007, took to the streets in nationwide peaceful protests demanding the military regime participate in a meaningful tri-partite dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the elected political parties from the 1990 elections and the ethnic nationalities representatives for national reconciliation and a transition to democracy;

Whereas according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Burma, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, leading human rights groups and foreign diplomats based in Burma estimate the death toll from the August and September 2007 peaceful protests is much higher than reported by the regime;

Whereas the military regime brutally crushed the peaceful protests killing at least 31 people, nearly 100 are still missing, and arrested 700 additional political prisoners whereby Burma's political prisoner population numbers 1,800;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement, issued by unanimous consent of all members of the Council on October 11, 2007, stated that `the Security Council strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar, emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees';

Whereas the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement also stressed `the need for the Government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations';

Whereas the United Nations and governments around the world also repeatedly called for the SPDC to hold a political dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her party, the NLD, and ethnic party representatives to achieve national reconciliation and democratization as well as to save the country from decades-long mismanagement by the regime which has resulted in a downward spiral of Burma's economic, educational, social, public health and infrastructure sectors;

Whereasthe SPDC has ignored the repeated requests of the United Nations and the international community to release all political prisoners, end attacks against civilians, and engage in a meaningful dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, her party, the NLD, and ethnic nationality representatives;

Whereas at the same time, the SPDC assigned a commission for drafting the state constitution on October 18, 2007, with 54 hand-picked persons, in an attempt to circumvent legitimate democratic processes and legitimize continued military rule;

Whereas the latest version of the draft constitution seeks to codify military rule, reserving 25 percent of parliamentary seats for military appointees, reserves power to the head of the military to intervene in national politics, and reserves key government ministries to serving military officers;

Whereas although the SPDC has appointed Labor Minister U Aung Kyi as liaison minister to engage with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for possible talks with Senior General Than Shwe, leader of the SPDC, since October 2007, there has been no development and no hope of a meaningful and time-bound dialogue;

Whereas recently, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed through her party leaders that she is unhappy with the SPDC's unwillingness to establish political dialogue and she even urged the people of Burma to be prepared for the worst;

Whereas on February 9, 2008, the military regime announced that it will hold a constitutional referendum in May 2008 and a general election in 2010;
Whereas on February 12, 2008, the SPDC extended the house arrest of U Tin Oo, Deputy Chairman of the NLD for another year; and

Whereas the military regime is once again trying to abolish the 1990 elections results and the election winning party status held by the NLD, and further legitimize military rule through an undemocratic process: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring)

That Congress--

(1) denounces the one-sided, undemocratic, and illegitimate act by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to legalize military rule with the constitution;

(2) firmly insists that Burma's military regime begin a meaningful tri-partite dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1990 election winning parties and ethnic nationality representatives toward national reconciliation, and the full restoration of democracy, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and internationally recognized human rights for all Burmese citizens;

(3) demands the immediate and unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, detained Buddhist monks, and all other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience;

(4) denounces the SPDC for its failure to comply with the United Nation's recommendations and engage in a meaningful time-bound tri-partite dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1990 election winning parties and ethnic nationality representatives;

(5) condemns the military regime's constitution and scheduled referendum;

(6) calls for the SPDC to comply fully and immediately with the recommendations made by United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari and the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement issued on October 11, 2007;

(7) urges the President to call for the United Nations Security Council to not accept or recognize the SPDC's constitution which will be the outcome of the referendum;

(8) urges the President to call for the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution, which will instruct the regime to fully comply with the recommendations made by United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari and the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement, and strengthen the mandate of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to engage in a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1990 election winning parties and ethnic nationality representatives towards an inclusive democratic national reconciliation;

(9) urges the President to push for a comprehensive arms embargo against the Burmese military regime at the United Nations Security Council so that weapons produced by foreign countries, including Ukraine, China, and Russia, who currently sell weapons to Burma's military regime, can no longer contribute the atrocities committed by Burma's military regime against civilians; and

(10) urges the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to involve itself more deeply in reaching out to the Burmese democracy movement and work with the United Nations Security Council and the Secretary-General to end junta political intransigence and promote meaningful political dialogue.

- Asian Tribune -

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