Tuesday, February 12

Government In Exile Calls For Boycott

The leader of Burma’s US-based government in exile has called for a boycott of the junta-announced referendum on a draft constitution and of elections planned for 2010.Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB), told The Irrawaddy neither a referendum nor an election would solve Burma’s problems and would only legitimize authoritarian military rule.

Sein Win said the announcement of a referendum, to be followed by an election in 2010, could not be accepted while opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest. The regime hadn’t even started talks with opposition leaders and ethnic groups, he said.

By unilaterally announcing the planned referendum and election, Sein Win said, the junta had sent a message that it was moving ahead with its seven point road map. “This means that they do not want to take the opposition into confidence, and they are totally ignoring the 1990 elections. As such we are not confident of the next election,” he said.

The Washington-based NCGUB was constituted and endorsed by representatives elected in the 1990 elections in Burma. Sein Win, a cousin of Suu Kyi, has led it since 1990.

Sein Win said the NCGUB also opposed the regime’s plan for a referendum and election “because of the present situation when there is no freedom of media, and no rule of law. Under these circumstances, people should not take part in any of those processes.”

The regime should hold talks with Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, and with ethnic leaders, Sein Win said. Then, he added, “we will have our solution.”

Sein Win said it was also time for the UN Security Council to give a stronger mandate to the UN Secretary-General’s Office and the UN Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, allowing them to play an effective mediatory role in bringing about an equitable solution to the political deadlock in Burma.

Some observers have speculated that Saturday’s announcement may have been the result of pressure from China, concerned about a small but vocal movement to boycott the Beijing Olympics in August.

In a broadcast interview at the weekend, US first lady Laura Bush said China had not brought enough pressure to bear on the Burmese junta.

“They [China] have not pressed them enough to—for the regime to show any sort of movement,” Bush told PBS.

“And, of course, they have continued to support Burma financially by buying natural resources,” said Bush, who has taken a personal interest in the pro-democracy movement in Burma, especially since the September demonstrations.

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