30 Jan 2009
British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell MP has strongly criticised the Burmese military regime’s elections planned for 2010, saying that they are “designed to entrench military rule behind a facade of civilian government.”
The Burma Campaign UK welcomed the statement from the Minister, and called on other governments to follow the British lead in recognising that the 2010 elections do not represent progress towards democracy.
“The 2010 elections could be the freest and fairest in the world, but it would make little difference as the constitution they bring in keeps the dictatorship in power”, said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The British government is right to condemn them. The United Nations should focus on the release of political prisoners as a first step towards genuine negotiations and a transition to democracy. We hope UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari will make this his top priority, and not be duped by the regime’s 2010 election con.”
UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari is due to visit Burma later this week.
Bill Rammell’s written statement came in response to a Parliamentary Question by Jim Cunningham MP on 12th January 2009, and was published in Hansard. The Minister also stated that; “We will continue to give our full support to the UN Secretary General and his efforts to break the current deadlock.”
The United Nations had been trying to broker tri-partite dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, ethnic groups, and the regime. The regime has defied the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and instead pushed ahead with its so-called road-map to democracy. Among the many undemocratic measures in the new constitution, the military have an effective veto over decisions made by the new Parliament and government.
Full statement from the Minister:
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment the Government have made of the political situation in Myanmar.
Bill Rammell: The military regime in Burma is determined to maintain its hold on power regardless of the cost and suffering of its people. The junta’s ‘Roadmap to disciplined democracy’, including a new constitution and elections planned for 2010, is designed to entrench military rule behind a facade of civilian government. The process excludes the opposition and meaningful participation by the ethnic groups. Fundamental rights are consistently ignored. Since early November, over 200 pro-democracy activists have been given sentences of up to 65 years in prison. These severe sentences are clearly designed to silence all dissent ahead of the 2010 elections. There are now over 2,200 political prisoners in detention, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and other pro-democracy leaders. Ethnic minority groups have been methodically marginalised. Against this backdrop, we will continue to do all we can to generate international pressure for a peaceful transition to democracy and respect for human rights in Burma. In particular, we will continue to give our full support to the UN Secretary General and his efforts to break the current deadlock.
For more information contact Mark Farmaner on +66 856495839, or call the Burma Campaign UK office on +44 2073244710.