Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has called the ‘roadmap to democracy’ announced by the Burmese military regime on Saturday a sham, which will serve only to ‘rubber-stamp the authority of this brutal regime’.

The announcement was made on the evening news for state radio and television on Saturday 9 February 2008, and outlined plans to hold a referendum on the proposed constitution in May 2008 and a general election in 2010. This is the first timetable that has been outlined for a constitution and elections.

The draft constitution is being written by the National Convention, where the overwhelming majority of delegates are handpicked by the regime. None of the nine pro-democracy parties which took part in the 1990 elections and won 90 per cent of the parliamentary seats are included in the constitution drafting process. In addition no major representatives from the ethnic nationalities which make up 40 per cent of the population of Burma are included. Questioning or criticising the National Convention and communicating with the international media about the process are crimes under the regime’s Order 5/96 and carry a 20-year jail sentence.

CSW is currently in the region on a fact-finding visit and has obtained fresh evidence of systematic and widespread human rights violations including forced labour, rape and torture. First-hand testimonies were obtained from Burmese monks who fled as a result of the September crackdown, Shan and Karen internally displaced people and refugees.

CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: “Far from being a positive development, this timetable will simply rubber-stamp the authority of this brutal regime. For there to be real change in Burma the regime must immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political prisoners, open all parts of the country to unhindered access for international humanitarian and human rights organisations and enter into meaningful tripartite dialogue with the National League for Democracy and ethnic nationalities. We call on the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki- Moon, to go in person to Burma to facilitate these steps as a matter of urgency. The world must not be conned by this sham.”

For more information, please contact Penny Hollings, Campaigns and Media Manager at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0045, email pennyhollings@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all