Page last updated at 19:47 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 20:47 UK

Call to reject Burma constitution

Supporters and members of Burma's National League For Democracy (NLD) campaign against the new constitution in Rangoon on 27 March 2008
The NLD urged people to "clearly and bravely vote no"

Burma's opposition National League for Democracy has urged voters to reject the new army-backed constitution in a referendum next month.

The country's military leaders say the proposed constitution is part of a process leading to elections in 2010.

The NLD said the planned constitution, which bars its leader Aung San Suu Kyi from key political posts, would not guarantee human rights or democracy.

Burma has not had a constitution since 1988 when the current junta took power.

Position clarified

In 1993, a national convention was set up to draft a new constitution, in what turned out to be a lengthy and intermittent process, from which the NLD was excluded.

In October 2007 the junta appointed a 54-member committee to the task and on 19 February announced that their work was complete and that a referendum would be held on the document in May.

While it has previously criticised the draft constitution, Wednesday's statement clarifies the NLD's position on the referendum.

Aung San Suu Kyi (picture taken on 30 Jan 2008)
Ms Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years

"We urge the people from all walks of life, ethnic nationalities and their organisations to go to the polling stations without fail and to decisively cast a 'no' vote," it said.

The NLD statement said that the proposed constitution "cannot give any guarantee for democracy and human rights, which are strongly needed by the people".

"It is not in accord with the basic democratic principle that the sovereign power of the state is derived from the people," the NLD said.

Although the text of the draft constitution has not been publicly released, news agencies say leaked copies show that it enshrines the military's dominant role in politics beyond the multiparty elections slated for 2010.

The constitution would also bar the NLD's leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, from the presidency or a seat in the legislature because she married a British man.

Ms Suu Kyi led the NLD to victory in a multi-party election in 1990 but the military ignored the result and she has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

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