For Immediate Release: 14 February
REFERENDUM IS THE SPDC’S
LATEST CON, REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP SAYS
Altsean-Burma (the Alternative
ASEAN Network on Burma), a regional human rights group, has
condemned the Burmese regime's announced referendum on its illegitimate
draft constitution as a last-ditch attempt to stave off growing
domestic and international pressure for genuine democratic reforms.
Debbie Stothard, Coordinator
for Altsean-Burma, said: "The international community should
not be conned into giving the regime another two years to cause
more suffering. The regime is notorious for its history of empty
promises. Anyone who believes the referendum will be free and
fair probably believes in the tooth fairy."
On 9 February, Burma's military
regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), announced
that it will hold a constitutional referendum in May 2008, followed
by general elections to be held at an unspecified date in 2010.
The announcement comes as the
military regime continues its crack down on political activists
and peaceful dissent. Since the beginning of 2008, the SPDC
has detained 12 members of the National League for Democracy
(NLD) and two 88 Generation Students. The regime also increased
its military strength in Eastern Burma in preparation for renewed
offensives against civilians and ethnic opposition groups. To
date, military operations in Eastern Burma have displaced more
than a half a million people in the world's longest-running
war; 76,000 people were displaced in the past year. 25,000 men,
women, and children face starvation as a result of the current
Meanwhile, key ethnic and pro-democracy
leaders have been detained, excluded from or gagged during the
protracted constitution-drafting process. Jail terms of up to
20 years can still be imposed under Order 5/96 on those who
criticize the draft constitution.
Altsean-Burma believes a referendum
held in such an oppressive environment would result in more
problems than solutions. "If the SPDC is serious about
promoting a democratic reform, it must stop arresting activists,
cease mass atrocities in ethnic areas, and release all political
prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic leaders,
and restart this process through tripartite dialogue,"
said Ms. Stothard.
Altsean-Burma condemns the
SPDCs move to force its people at gunpoint to approve a constitution
that is the result of an illegitimate, unrepresentative, and
non participatory process.
"The regime wants to impose
a constitution that will create more instability and prolong
military rule. After more than four decades of military misrule,
why should the Burmese want a constitution that gives unfettered
power to a President who must come from the military and where
25% of parliamentary seats are allocated to the military?"
added Ms. Stothard.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD,
and ethnic groups have repeatedly called for immediate, time-bound
and inclusive dialogue with the SPDC. The people of Burma cannot
afford two more years of repression and economic mismanagement.
The international community, including ASEAN, China, India,
and the UN Security Council, should intensify pressure to convince
the regime to change.
Enquiries: Debbie Stothard,
Cellphone +6681 686 1652