Friday, October 19, 2007

Junta Presses On With “Exclusive” Constitution Drafting

from the Irrawaddy. Article HERE.

The appointment by Burma’s ruling junta of a committee to write a draft constitution, without the participation of the opposition National League for Democracy, is being regarded as further proof that the generals have no intention of listening to international pleas for an all-inconclusive process of national reconciliation.

Two Buddhist monks walks under a huge billboard advertizing the National convention in Rangoon [Photo: AFP]The committee, appointed on October 18, is being hailed by the Burmese government, the State Peace and Development Council, as another important step on its seven-stage “road map” to democracy, described as “2/2007.”

Aung Htoo, Secretary of the Burma Lawyers’ Council, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the job of writing a constitution still lay legally with winning candidates in the 1990 election. That was enshrined in a junta statement described as “1/90,” which was still technically in effect.

NLD candidates won 80 percent of the votes in the 1990 election.

“According to the junta’s 1/90 statement, only those elected can write the constitution,” said Aung Htoo.

Aung Htoo said the 1/90 statement and a later one, 11/92, calling for the establishment of a National Convention, conflicted with each other. “It means the junta doesn’t follow its statements and the law itself,” he said.

Aung Htoo said a further statement, 5/96, ruled out any public participation in drawing up a new constitution, ensuring it would be an “exclusive” process and not an “inclusive” one.

Although the proposed draft of the constitution enshrines some civil rights, such as freedom of expression, it retains such articles as 10 (A), 10 (B), “Protection of the State from Threat”, which date from 1975. These laws allow the state to detain citizens without trial for up to five years, said Aung Htoo.

NLD spokesman Thein Nyunt confirmed that the party had signed the 1/90 statement in 1990 and still stood by its terms, which dictate that elected candidates in the 1990 election should write the new constitution.

Thein Nyunt rejected the junta’s 5/96 statement. “The 5/96 [statement] means non- participation by the public in the constitution process,” he said. “The constitution is for all Burmese. So all must join in.”

Win Min, of Chiang Mai University, said the committee might have been formed at this time because of international pressure and to show the global community that the regime is confident it can proceed without an inclusive process.

“Here the important actor is China [which] can push the junta for an inclusive process for national reconciliation and democracy in Burma,” said Win Min.

Mahn Sha, general secretary of the Karen National Union, said the formation of the committee showed that the regime was demonstrating to the international community that it was going its own way regardless. The KNU could not accept such a one-sided approach to writing the constitution, he said.

“The real solution for real change in this country is dialogue between the military rulers and dissidents,” Mahn Sha said.

A spokesman for the New Mon State Party ceasefire group, Nai Oung Ma-nge, told The Irrawaddy that the party had walked out of the National Convention because it felt its proceedings were unjust. The party would not accept any unjustly drafted constitution, he said.

In a further comment on events in Burma, Aung Htoo said: “Some diplomats and experts said recently that the role of the Tatmadaw [Burma’s armed forces] prevented anarchism in Burma, even though there are many armed groups. But they failed to see that state-backed terror on civilians is also creating anarchism.”