[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

"Making it Legal," The Economist

Subject: "Making it Legal,"  The Economist

Subject: "Making it Legal," Economist article, Jan 22-28,  94

The Economist
Jan 22-28, 1994

Making it legal

The convention that is drawing up a new constitution for Myanmar
(Burma) has six objectives, 104 basic principles and a bottom line. 
The bottom line is that the new constitution must entrench and
perpetuate the power of the armed forces.  The chairman of the
convention is Myo Nynt, a lieutenant general who also commands the
troops stationed in Yangon (Rangoon), the capital.  On January
18th, the general opened the latest session of the convention by
urging delegates to discharge their patriotic duty and ignore the
"devious interferences" of "Neo-colonialists."
  The military junta that rules Myanmar wants a new constitution to
restore the legitimacy it lost in May, 1990. when the National
League for Democracy won the general election.  The junta did not
recognise the result.
  In theory, the opponents of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council are allowed to take part in discussion.  Some 80 of the
almost 700 delegates at the convention are drawn from the League. 
But the junta has been careful to exclude any possibility of real
dissent.  Aung San Suu Kyi and the league's other leaders are in
prison or in exile.  In October Aung Khin Sint, a League delegate
to the convention was sentenced to 20 years in prison for writing
a supposedly subversive letter to his fellow delegates.  Diplomats
believe that his letter simply urged delegates not to forget their
duty to the people.  When the convention resumed this week, Aung
Shwe, the head of the League's delegation, told journalists that he
regarded the sentence as "harsh,".  But he mused, "that's
politics."  Other League delegates were visibly terrified by the
approach of foreigners.
  Some members of the League argue that their participation in the
convention is the only way of preserving the legality of their
party.   They hope that eventually the junta will hold a new
election and that the League will win again.  Other League members
fear that if they go on attending the convention they will only
legitimise a charade.  The army has made it clear that it expects
to be given a formal role in all three branched of government, the
executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
  But the generals do now know what to do about Miss Suu Kyi.  Her
five year term of imprisonment at home runs out in July and some
junta watchers reckon that he regime may be hoping to finish the
constitution by then and then release her.  The junta's proposals
for the constitution would exclude her from politics by requiring
that the president of Myanmar should have had 20 years of unbroken
residence in the country.  Miss Suu Kyi has spent much of the past
two decades in exile.
  Still, it seems unlikely that the laborious process of
constitution writing, which has been going on for a year already,
will be anywhere near complete By July.  Even if it is, a piece of
paper, no matter how carefully drafted may not make the junta feel
secure enough to risk the popular impact of Miss Suu Kyi's release.
  The army must know it is unpopular.  On jan 14th, the pro-junta
Union Solidarity and Development Association held a rally in Yangon
attended by 100,000 people.  But most appeared to have been
corralled into attending.  Students were reportedly told that they
would fail their exams if they did not show up.  Foreigners
watching the rally noted that the crowd was fairly sullen and
failed to cheer in the right places.  No Matter.  The New Light of
Myanmar, the country's official newspaper, continues to report
triumphant rallies throughout the country, which invariably finish
with "tumultuous changing of slogans."  Perhaps the noise reassures
the generals.