Wed 4 Nov 2009
Filed under: Inside Burma
New Delhi – Burma’s main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – on Wednesday told the visiting United States diplomats to include the revision of the 2008 constitution as one of the main agendas in its engagement with the ruling junta.
1990 election winning party told the US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell led US delegation that without revising the 2008 constitution there could be no free and fair elections, no improvement in the situation of Human Rights, and the process of national reconciliation cannot be kick-started.
Campbell along with US ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Scot Marciel, accompanied by Charge d’Affairs of US embassy in Rangoon Larry M Dinger, on Wednesday visited the NLD office as part of their fact-finding mission.
“The main discussion from our side is urging them to call for a revision of the 2008 constitution, without which, none of the other concerns including violation of human rights can be achieved,” Win Tin, a Central Executive Committee (CEC) member of the NLD told Mizzima.
The US diplomats are in Burma for a two-day fact-finding mission as part of the US’s new policy of engaging the military regime while maintaining the existing sanctions.
They arrived on Tuesday, also had a two hour meeting with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday afternoon prior to their meeting with the NLD CEC.
“We did not have enough time to discuss or ask the diplomats about their meeting with Daw Suu,” Win Tin said, adding that their meeting with the two US officials began at about 3:30 p.m. and concluded at 4:30 p.m. (local time).
In their discussions, Win Tin said, the NLD made it clear that they will not participate in the 2010 elections unless the junta revises the 2008 constitution, on the basis of which the elections will be held.
“It is good to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, but if the constitution is not revised, there would be no improvement in Burma’s politics,” Win Tin said.
He argued that the 2008 constitution, which was drafted following a 14-year long convention, where delegates were handpicked, is designed to safeguard the military’s interest and not to guarantee the peoples’ rights.
“If we take out the gist of the constitution, we can say that the Tatmadaw [military] is the principle guardian of the constitution, Tatmadaw is the principle operator of the constitution and Tatmadaw is the principle interpreter of the constitution,” Win Tin remarked.
He said he is a little disappointed with the US for remaining silent over the junta’s 2008 constitution and making no particular mention in their calls for reform.
The United States has urged Burmese military rulers to release political prisoners including Suu Kyi and to make the 2010 elections an all inclusive process but has not particularly called for a revision of the 2008 constitution, Win Tin said.
“For me, this is most surprising because without getting the foundation right, nothing will be right. There can be no free and fair election and no inclusiveness in the political process,” he added.
But he said the NLD welcomes the visit of Campbell led delegation and urged them to take stronger initiatives in order to facilitate a political dialogue in Burma.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, the US delegates met Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein at the new jungle capital city of Naypyitaw. The delegation also met several other political parties including ethnic nationalities political parties.
Campbell is the senior most US official to visit Burma in the past 14 years. But he is unlikely to meet junta supremo Snr General Than Shwe, as he is away on a tour to the Cyclone Nargis devastated region of the Irrawaddy delta.
The delegation’s visit is the second step in the new US’s policy of engagement with the junta, announced in September. In September, Campbell met U Thaung, the Burmese Minister for Science and Technology in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.