08/05/2009, 00.00
INDIA – MYANMAR
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Only a shared constitution can guarantee peace in the country, Burmese exile says

by Tint Swe
Myanmar is going through a deep crisis that can only be overcome on the basis of a unifying political project. It must include opposition parties and the country’s various ethnic groups in dialogue with the military junta. This initiative is a response to the dictatorship’s “democracy” plan, described as “unacceptable.”
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A summit will be held from 11 to13 August in Jakarta, Indonesia, to prepare a national reconciliation plan. It will be the first attempt to set up a unified movement since the post-Second World War period and the struggle for independence against British colonialists and Japanese invaders.

The initiative is the brainchild of the Movement for Democracy and Rights for Ethnic Nationalities, which includes Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and the country’s ethnic minorities.

For this reason we are publishing an analysis by Tint Swe, a member of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) set up by refugees from Myanmar after the 1990 elections won by the NLD but never recognised by the ruling military junta.

After fled to India in 1990 and has lived in New Delhi since 21 December 1991. Since then he has been a member of the NCGUB responsible for Information on South Asia and East Timor.

Burma is in crisis. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which has ruled the country for the past 21 years ago, has created a political system that seeks to perpetuate its rule over Burma.

The government in exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), has been working at the international level. Essentially it does what the inside leadership cannot do.  Accordingly it has to deal with friendly governments, diplomats as well as international civil society groups and campaigners all over the world. The key area in which the NCGUB has a special interest is working with the United Nations. 

There have been scores of UN envoys to Burma. They include UN human rights representatives and special envoys representing the UN secretary general. Prof Ibrahim Gambari is the current special envoy of Mr Ban Ki-moon. Gambari’s second visit to Burma in 2008 was highly criticized by the Burmese opposition because he expressed support for the military regime’s unacceptable 2010 election plan.

When Gambari met the NCGUB prime minister, he said that the UN had to talk about the regime’s roadmap because the opposition lacked a shared and better proposal. So the NCGUB decided to come up with an all-agreed, all-inclusive sustainable plan.

When all Burmese parliamentarians in exile gathered in Ireland in January 2009, the NCGUB laid out a new proposal which was agreed in principle. The draft proposal was accepted at a consultative meeting of the main opposition groups held on 26 January 2009.

The NCGUB consulted experienced diplomats, ethnic groups and pro-democracy organizations to make the draft proposal more acceptable. Meanwhile political developments inside Burma become critical since Ban Ki-moon’s two-day visit did not lead to any meaningful change; instead Aung San Suu Kyi was put on trial.  

The constitution adopted by the SPDC in 2008 excludes many important political groups in Burma, including ethnic groups who are stake-holders in the Union of Burma.  It permits neither full democratic election, nor does it protect the human rights of the Burmese people.  

The country’s current legal and political framework does not allow economic activity to flourish.  Despite Burma’s wealth in natural resources, millions of its people languish in poverty and hardships.  Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the regime’s cronies; economic development and a decent standard of living are denied to the majority of Burma’s population. Foreign and domestic investments face obstacles and they do take place they are largely limited to the unsustainable exploitation of Burma’s non-renewable natural resources, including its virgin forests and minerals. The agricultural sector, which is vital to the country’s economy, is largely ignored. 

Only democracy, based upon a fully inclusive constitution, will enable the people of Burma to achieve long term peace and stability in a society in which all its peoples, through representative institutions, can participate in political decision-making.

The draft proposal submitted by the NCGUB for the development of an inclusive political process before 2010 was widely discussed in opposition circles. An ‘Action Plan on transition towards Democracy and Development in Burma’ is about to be launched, not only by the NCGUB but also by six other coalition groups (ethnic, women, students, pro-democracy) next week.

This Action Plan is the means by which Burma can achieve a peaceful and lawful transition to democracy and economic development. It can be achieved through consultation and dialogue between, on the one hand, the pro-democracy and ethnic movement of Burma and, on the other, the military regime currently in power.

Working together, we can bring Burma back to a path of international legitimacy, regional stability and national peace, security, freedom and prosperity for all.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to the report)

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