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Burma: Constitutions

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessments he has made of the likelihood that the planned referendum on the Burmese draft constitution will be free and fair; and if he will make a statement. (200929)

The Burmese regime’s referendum on their new constitution, set for 10 May 2008, is being conducted in an atmosphere of harassment and intimidation. Criticism of the process and the draft constitution is punishable by long prison sentences. The regime has excluded opposition figures and representatives of ethnic groups in Burma from participating in the process and denies the “No” campaign a platform to air its arguments. The referendum seeks to perpetuate the role of the military in the government of the country. The constitution as drafted specifically targets Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, disqualifying her from office for having a foreign spouse. Members of religious orders will also be disenfranchised.

We endorse the view of UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who commented on 14 March:

“No referendum or elections can be fair, no transition to democracy can be effective, without the release of political prisoners, the authorisation for all political parties to operate, and the protection of the basic civil and political freedoms, all non-existent in Myanmar”.