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National Convention In Burma

Burma's military junta recently suspended the proceedings of its national convention. The convention's sole purpose is to draft a constitution that will effectively entrench military rule in Burma.

The National League for Democracy, other pro-democracy parties, and ethnic minority groups have been denied a voice in this process. "Absent the participation of the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups, the national convention does not reflect the true political aspirations of the Burmese people, nor does it serve as a real forum for the meaningful dialogue that is needed to achieve genuine national reconciliation," says a statement issued by the U.S. State Department. "Given these deep flaws, any constitution that emerges from the national convention..., and any subsequent referendum or general election would by extension lack legitimacy, and would not constitute meaningful steps toward the establishment of democracy in Burma." State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli further explained the U.S. position:

"We've made clear that we expect Burma's leadership to take steps to promote genuine national reconciliation and democracy and engage in meaningful dialogue with members of the political opposition and ethnic groups and release all political prisoners and respect fundamental rights of its citizens."

Since 1962, Burma has been ruled by a succession of military regimes. In 1990, the opposition National League for Democracy won more than eighty percent of the seats in parliamentary elections. But the junta refused to honor the results.

Since May 2003, the junta has detained National League for Democracy General Secretary and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Many other political prisoners have been detained in secret locations without notification to their families or adequate legal counsel.

The illegitimate national convention is another example of the junta's unwillingness to relinquish power. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky says that the U.S. stands with Aung San Suu Kyi and others in Burma who are denied basic human rights. The U.S., she says, "will continue to help the people of Burma in their struggle."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.