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Myanmar government announces law on constitutional referendum, sets up supervisory body

Myanmar government announces law on constitutional referendum, sets up supervisory body

Myanmar's military government announced Tuesday the enactment of a law setting out rules for a May referendum on a new constitution, despite worldwide criticism that the process is unfair and undemocratic.
The evening's state TV and radio broadcast news of the law and said a 45-member Referendum Convening Commission was set up to oversee the referendum.
The announcement said the law, to be published Wednesday in state-run newspapers, covers matters such as preparation of electoral rolls, voting procedures and reporting of results, as well as restrictions and punishments for violations of its statutes.
The announcement did not address critics' claims that the constitutional process is flawed because it is manipulated by the military for its own benefit.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under international pressure to make democratic reforms, especially since it violently crushed peaceful mass protests last September. The U.N. estimates at least 31 people were killed and thousands more were detained in the crackdown.
The ruling junta's plans have been widely criticized for failing to include any input from opponents of military rule, especially the opposition National League for Democracy party of detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party won a 1990 general election, but the junta refused to let it take power.
On Feb. 9 the government made public its plan for the referendum _ the first time the junta has set any date for a step in its earlier-announced "roadmap to democracy."
But it has not released an exact date for the vote or the text of the draft constitution, which a committee hand-picked by the military completed on Feb. 19.
Chief Justice and chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, Aung Toe, said at the time that the draft was drawn up with the objective of ensuring a leading role in politics for the military, which has always insisted that it alone can hold the country's many fractious ethnic groups together.
The army has ruled the country virtually continuously since a 1962 coup, and the junta's critics complain the new charter is aimed at perpetuating military control.
Guidelines used to draft the new charter also bar Suu Kyi from national office because she was married to a foreigner _ her late British husband, Michael Aris _ and enjoyed the privileges of a foreign national.
Many Western nations, including the United States, maintain political and economic sanctions against the junta because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.
On Monday, Washington extended its sanctions against some of the junta's cronies, making it difficult for them to hold or trade assets outside Myanmar.
"The situation in Burma remains deplorable," U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement. "The regime has rejected calls from its own people and the international community to begin a genuine dialogue with the opposition and ethnic minority groups."
Referring to the sanctions, Bush said "concerted international pressure is needed to achieve a genuine transition to democracy in Burma."
Suu Kyi's party warned last week that the ruling military junta's unilateral announcement of a constitutional referendum and general elections was undemocratic and could hurt national stability.
It stopped short, however, of advocating a boycott or a "no" vote for the draft constitution.
Tuesday's announcement said the 45-member commission overseeing the referendum was made up mostly of representatives of the country's ethnic minorities, as well as at least two legal experts.
Myanmar has not had a constitution since 1988, when the current junta took power after violently suppressing mass pro-democracy demonstrations.


Updated : 2021-07-26 04:09 GMT+08:00