Mar 24, 2008

US Congressmen propose rejection of junta's constitution

United States lawmakers on Friday proposed a Congressional resolution urging the President to call on the United Nations to reject the Burmese military junta's constitution and not to recognize its efforts to legitimize it through a referendum in May.
House Concurring resolution 317 was introduced by Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ), Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 14, 2008.
The resolution, which is now referred to the House Committee of Foreign Affairs for consideration, calls on the President "to call for the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution," on Burma, which will instruct the Burmese regime to comply to the calls made by the United Nations and the international communities.
The resolution denounces the one-sided, undemocratic, and illegitimate act by the Burmese military junta to legalize its rule with a constitution drafted with its hand-picked delegates and criticizes the junta's scheduled referendum in May.
It also urges the President to push for a comprehensive arms embargo against the Burmese junta 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 to the atrocities committed by Burma's military regime against civilians.
The resolution also urges the Burmese junta to comply fully and immediately with the recommendations made by the United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari and the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement issued on October 11, 2007.
The concurrent resolution, however, is the first step of the legislative process, and will require deliberation, investigation, and revision by the House Committee of Foreign Affairs before it can go for a general debate.
The resolution was introduced a week after the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari concluded his last visit to Burma on March 10.
Gambari, who has visited the Southeast Asian nation for the third time since the ruling junta brutally suppressed protesting monks and laymen in September, suggested to the junta to make necessary changes to be more inclusive.
But critics view Gambari's mission a failure as he was not allowed a meeting with the junta's head Snr Gen Than Shwe and all his requests were flatly rejected by the junta's officials.
The Burmese junta has announced holding a referendum on its draft constitution in May and general election in 2010, and told Gambari that the process of its roadmap is already inclusive and needs no modification.
The junta in 2003 first announced a seven-step roadmap to democracy and started kicking off the process with a 14-year long National Convention, which claims to have drafted the principles for the future constitution.
Burma's main opposition political party – National League for Democracy – led by detained Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi initially joined the junta's National Convention but walked out in 1996, saying the process is not transparent and is made to rubber stamp the junta's policies.
Meanwhile, the US Campaign for Burma, a rights group, in a statement welcomed the Congressmen's proposal saying it reflects the will of the Burmese people.
Aung Din, Executive Director of the USCB, in a statement expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Congressmen who proposed the resolution saying it is an important initiative not to recognize the military junta's illegitimate constitution, which is designed to perpetuate military rule in Burma by vesting supreme power in the hands of the Chief of the military, Commander-in-Chief.
"People of Burma are determined to reject this sham constitution at any cost, which will make them slaves of the military for generations," Aung Din said.
On Friday, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Burma, who visited the country in November to investigate the junta's brutal crackdown on protesters in September and October, criticized the junta and condemned its continued arrest and detention of activists and dissidents.
Pinheiro, at a news briefing at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva ridiculed the Burmese junta's planned roadmap saying, "if you believe in gnomes, trolls and elves, you can believe in this democratic process in Myanmar [Burma]."
While the international community including the United Nations called on the junta to make its plan more inclusive, neighbouring countries including Thailand has been supportive of the junta's move.
Thailand's newly elected Prime Minister Samat Sundaravej, who recently came back from Burma, praised military leaders as strong devotees of Buddhism giving the impression that killing and suppression in the country are normal.
"Tragically, like the Thai Prime Minister, there are some governments in Asia and Europe who believe in myths. We need similar actions from other Members of Parliament around the world to urge their respective governments to reject the junta's sham constitution and to apply more pressure on the Burmese military junta," Aung Din said.

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