03/28/2008, 00.00
THAILAND - MYANMAR

Burmese democratic forces for the "no" to the constitutional referendum

A mass mobilization to vote "no" on the charter of the generals is the initiative launched yesterday at the end of a meeting among the leading Burmese activists in exile, and also supported by the Italian Labour Unions Confederation.

Mae Sot (AsiaNews) - A general mobilization to promote the "no" to the constitutional referendum organised by the Burmese military junta for next May.  This is the initiative launched at the conclusion of the forum for the strategic consultation of Burmese democratic organisations, held from March 25-27 in Mae Sot, a Thai town at the border with Myanmar.  The seminar, organised by the National Council of the Union of Burma in collaboration with the CISL (Italian Labour Unions Confederation), which has for some time worked beside the local union federation, was attended by the leading exiled proponents of democracy for Burma: from the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi to the individual unions themselves, from the government in exile to the alliance of the ethnic communities, to the association of jurists and youth and women's organisations.

During the forum, dozens of groups energetically launched the campaign for the "no" to the May referendum, which is intended to approve the text of the new constitution, proposed by the army and drafted without any consultation with the opposition.  The participants at the meeting, including various former student leaders of the pro-democracy protests in August of 1988, then turned to denounce the massive recourse to forced labour on the part of the regime, emphasising how only a democratic transformation of the country will permit the elimination of this blight on society.  The struggle against forced labour was the subject of comments by Cecilia Brighi, member of the administrative council of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as a priority for the working agenda at in upcoming months: "We intend to denounce the junta before the International Court of Justice, because forced labour is a crime against humanity".

The commitment of the Burmese democratic movement was enthusiastically supported by the secretary general of the CISL, Renzo Belllini, who emphasised its capacity to promote "a concept of identity that includes, instead of excluding", while support for the move to democracy in the former Burma came from the Italian government itself, through a message from the undersecretary of the foreign ministry, Gianni Vernetti.

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