March 31, 2011

Burma Campaign UK today publishes a new Briefing Paper – Burma’s New Constitution – Denying Ethnic Rights – analysing Burma’s new Constitution and the impact it has on ethnic rights.

View the briefing here.

Burma’s new Constitution, approved in a rigged referendum in 2008, is likely to have wide-ranging negative impacts on ethnic people in Burma. These include:

·  Continuing Burmanisation of ethnic people in areas under control of the dictatorship, as there is not adequate protection of Burma’s many cultures.

·  Increased political control by central government over ethnic areas, as new regional Parliaments are firmly under central government control.

·  Large-scale armed conflict, as the Constitution requires ethnic armed groups to become part of the Burmese Army, or disarm. The dictatorship has already broken several ceasefire agreements as it seeks to extend its military control over ethnic areas in line with the new Constitution.

·  A major human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by the ending of ceasefires.

·  Increased Burmese Army military presence in ethnic areas, leading to increased human rights abuses.

The Briefing argues that the Constitution, by denying ethnic rights and the aspirations of ethnic people, perpetuates problems that are at the root cause of instability and dictatorship in Burma.* The Constitution is fatally flawed, and as such, under this Constitution, there is no way that Burma can take genuine steps towards peace, stability, democracy and full human rights.

There had been hope that the regional or state Parliaments and governments may provide space for improvements in ethnic rights in Burma. However, the Constitution appears written to extend political control over ethnic States. These States will now have military backed political bodies as well as military regional commanders. No member of an ethnic political party has been nominated as Chief Minister, even where they have a majority in the regional Parliament.  Regional governments are dominated by the pro-dictatorship Union Solidarity and Development Party members.

“Without ethnic rights guaranteed in a Federal Constitution, where people can live side by side, different but equal, there will not be peace and stability in Burma”, said Zoya Phan, Campaigns Manager at Burma Campaign UK. “The international community largely ignores what happens in ethnic areas, even though the denial of ethnic rights is at the root cause of the problems in Burma. Unless they start trying to address these issues, their diplomatic efforts are guaranteed to fail. It is no good hoping this Constitution will bring in a system allowing incremental change in 5 years time or 15 years time. This new Constitution has already increased conflict, caused major human rights and humanitarian problems and has increased regional instability, with refugees and fighting reaching neighbouring countries. Without international action, it is likely to get much worse.”

For interview or more information, contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710.

View the briefing here.

*Speaking after the military coup in 1962, Brigadier Aung Gyi, member of the Revolutionary Council, stated that the issue of federalism was “the most important reason” for the coup.


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