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Burma: Politics and Government

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department’s latest assessment is of the political situation in Burma. (190654)

[holding answer 29 February 2008]: The Government continue to be deeply concerned by the political situation in Burma. Fundamental civil and human rights continue to be abused. Ethnic minority groups are subject to particular abuse and marginalisation. The military Government impose tight controls on the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media. The civil opposition continues to be harassed and suppressed. 2,000 political prisoners continue to be detained.

On 9 February, the Burmese regime announced that it would hold a referendum on a new constitution in May 2008 and elections in 2010 as part of its “Roadmap” process. The civil opposition and representatives of many ethnic groups have been excluded from the constitution-drafting process. Unless the constitution and the process is truly inclusive and transparent, it will not lead to genuine national reconciliation. We are particularly concerned at the regime’s attempts to exclude Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the political process and fear that this will only exacerbate tension and instability in Burma. In our contacts with the military Government and those who have influence over them, we are stressing the need for all political actors, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to be allowed to play their full part in shaping the country's future.

On 12 February, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated our demand that the Burmese regime immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and called for the early return of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to the country, to help facilitate political transition.