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Panelists Say Burma's Constitutional Convention Falls Short

VOA holds panel discussion on Burma's efforts to draft a national constitution.

Washington, D.C., February 23, 2005 - Exiled Burmese pro-democracy leaders said at a panel discussion at the Voice of America today that Burma's efforts to draft a national constitution are falling short of the military government's stated goal of striving towards democracy.

Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, said, "Most of the points [of the constitution] are already decided." Because delegates to the convention had no opportunity to provide input, he added, "the constitution and this process is meant to legitimize their [Burmese government's] rule."

VOA's Bangkok bureau chief, Scott Bobb, who covered the convention in Rangoon, told the gathering: "It's clear the leadership are aware of it [international criticism], and also they are going to go in their own way at their own speed, regardless."

U Maung Maung, the General Secretary of the Council of the Union of Burma, agreed that the regime is using the convention to legitimize itself. David I. Steinberg, Distinguished Professor and Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University, said he is convinced that the Burmese government has no intention of giving up power and will continue to maintain control over the critical elements of Burmese society.

Keith Luse, senior professional staff member for East Asian and Pacific Affairs on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Rangoon government to explain why Aung San Suu Kyi's detention has been extended and why her security detail has been removed. "These are important questions that will not go away simply by holding a national convention," he said. Luse added that Senator Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, feels stability in the region is very important and that ASEAN will play a greater role in ensuring stability and at the same time encourage more reform in Burma.

Today's panel was hosted by VOA's Burmese Service. The program was recorded for radio and television broadcast later today and tomorrow.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including Burmese.

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