Burma Today Mizzima Democratic Voice of Burma Irrawaddy Kao Wao S H A N Network Media Group
  U S C A M P A I G N F O R B U R M A

For Immediate Release: February 7th, 2004
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 223-0300, (202) 246-7924 cell


US Campaign for Burma Recognizes Burma's Ethnic Nationalities' Rejection of Regime's Roadmap

(Washington, DC) A leading United States-based activist group, the US Campaign for Burma, today recognized the public rejection by Burma's major ethnic groups of a deeply flawed "roadmap" to democracy promised by the Southeast Asian country's ruling military regime. After the conference "Burma's Ethnic National Seminar", which was held in an area of Burma controlled by the Karen National Union, the meeting of ethnic nationalities called instead for a "tripartite" dialogue between the military regime, National League for Democracy, and ethnic groups.

The fact that the seminar was held in Law-Hkee-La Camp in the Karen State, an area not controlled by the military regime, and organized by the independent Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC), demonstrates that the regime has vastly overstated ethnic support for its roadmap. Sixty-one delegates from 25 ethnic nationality groups, including two groups that have entered into cease-fire agreements with the regime, attended the six-day seminar.

In a statement, seminar participants said, "The seminar observed that the [regime's] 7-stage 'road map' and the attempt to reconvene its national convention, temporarily suspended in 1996, would not lead to democratization and establishment of a federal union but only sustain a military dictatorship in the country."

In addition to calling for tripartite dialogue, the group also called for the formation of an interim government designed to facilitate a "real and legitimate national convention" that would result in state and federal constitutions. They also called upon the military regime to stop military offensives against ethnic nationalities, declare a nationwide cease-fire, and release all political prisoners including 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been in detention since May 30th, 2003, when regime agents attacked her convoy, killing scores of members of her political party.

The politically courageous statement by Burma's ethnic groups comes as the ruling regime has claimed it maintains ethnic support for its proposed road map and national convention. Regime media outlets inside Burma regularly trumpet the supposed relationship between Khin Nyunt, the regime's notorious chief of military intelligence, and ethnic groups. In reality, the regime maintains its closest relationships with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Forces (MNDF). Both the UWSA and MNDF produce and traffic significant amounts of drugs, while UWSA leader Wai Hsueh Kang is wanted by the US, which is offering a $2 million reward for his capture.

The result of the seminar echoes earlier statements by other ethnic nationalities. In September 2003, Rangoon-based ethnic nationality leaders from the United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), a coalition of 20 ethnic nationality parties, and the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), coalition of nine ethnic political parties, rejected the regime's roadmap and instead called for tripartite dialogue. The UNLD and UNA won a combined 67 seats in Burma's last democratic election, which was annulled by the military regime.

"The message from the seminar should be a wake-up call for the international
community and the United Nations, especially UN special envoy Razali Ismail," says Aung Din, policy director of US Campaign for Burma and a former political prisoner. "If the regime wants to talk about a transition to democracy, they need to spend less time trying to sell their roadmap to foreign leaders and more time engaging the democracy movement in tripartite dialogue."