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Burma Constitutional Convention

Burma's ruling military junta is restarting a bogus constitutional convention that it first convened thirteen years ago. According to news reports, the latest draft constitution will ensure a continued military presence in any new Burmese government. It reportedly requires Burma's president to have at least fifteen years of military service and calls for reserving one-third of parliamentary seats for members of Burma's armed forces. Some Burmese exiles told The New York Times newspaper that "General elections means elections of generals."

Burma's National League for Democracy, or N-L-D, the major opposition party, is boycotting the constitutional convention. Nyan Win, an N-L-D spokesman, told a reporter the convention “lacks democratic principles." In 1990, the N-L-D won a decisive victory in Burma's parliamentary election but the regime refused to accept the results and intensified its repression. Today, more than one-thousand pro-democracy activists are imprisoned in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the N-L-D and winner of the 1991 Nobel peace prize, has been under house arrest for almost eleven of the past seventeen years. Other high profile political prisoners include N-L-D Vice-Chairman U Tin Oo and Hkun Htun Oo, leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

The Burmese military regime's misguided policies include attacks against ethnic minorities, including the Shan and Karen minority groups in the east. Its actions are resulting in increasing numbers of internally displaced people and refugees, large-scale narcotics and human trafficking, and the unimpeded spread of communicable diseases, such as H-I-V/AIDS. In September, the United Nations Security Council added Burma to this year's agenda.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack commented on the U-N action:

"I grant you it is only a step but it is an important step. We're going to continue to speak out about the importance of a real full-fledged democracy taking root in Burma."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "When tyrannical governments like Burma abuse their citizens and deny their rights, it is the responsibility of all free nations to condemn these actions."

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