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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bulletin: Burma Junta sets May for constitutional referendum; 2010 for elections

Deja Vu: The Burmese military junta has set 2010 as the date for national elections and this May for a constitutional referendum, though many find it strange that an election date as been set even before the results of the referendum are known. The junta's democracy 'roadmap' is generally regarded as fake since it is being handed down from above and entails almost no popular participation.

For the past 20 years or so, the Burmese junta has made fitful moves toward an appearance of democracy, going through the motions of constitutional discussions. In 1990, relentless campaigning by democracy actitvist Aung San Suu Kyi had resulted in her National League for Democracy gainning an 80% landslide in the elections . She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Meanwhile, the government of Saw Maung ignored the vote and all that transpired was Saw Maung's demotion in 1992 in favour of General Than Shwe who rules to this day. Throughout the 1990s, the National League for Democracy held repeated demonstrations and clashed with security forces. Aung San Suu Kyi herself was either under house arrest or under close surveillance, her freedom strictly limited. Briefly, in 2003, Prime Minister Khin Nyunt attempted to lay down a road map for democracy but he was put under house arrest after a power struggle. A Constitutional "convention" sputtered on within the confines of the leadership and has had no notable outcome. In 2006, Than Shwe, suddenly and with seeming arbitrariness moved the capital to the remote, inland region of May Pyi Taw. In May of this year, Aung San Suu Kyi, back under house arrest, had another year added to her confinement. In early September a 500% hike on fuel prices pushed the Burmese beyond endurance- a population that has never really recovered or seen relief from the blundering, ideologically inspired "Burmese Socialism" of 1962.

For the main entry on Burma, see:

1947- in London, Burnese Prime Minister Aung San negotiates Burma’s independence and conceives the new Burmese Constitution.
1947- Aung San Assassinated
1948- Jan 4- Burma formally attains independence.
1962- military chief U Ne Win overthrows Prime Minister U Nu. U Ne Win becomes chairman of the revolutionary Council, bans parliament. Ne Win pursues isolationism and a Burmese ideology- “the Burmese Way to Socialism’, a combination of Buddhism, Marxism and nationalism.
1988- riots due to a growing economic crisis, break out in Rangoon. They are centred around Sule Pagoda. Security Forces kill 3000 protesters.
-Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, returns to Burma to care for her dying mother. She co-founds the National League for Democracy and becomes its General Secretary. She makes it into a mass movement for non-violent change.
1990- Aung San Suu Ky’s National league for Democracy wins80 % of the vote in elections. Many new MPs are jailed. The military’s own party gains only 10 seats.
-Government Ignores NLD Victory; repression continues.
-2004-August – Khin Nyunt becomes Prime Minister. He proposes a convention for a road map to democracy.
2005- February- Constitutional talks last the whole year without representation from opposition groups. There is no result.
2007-September- the government ends the Constitutional Convention after declaring constitutional talks complete.
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