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Burma announces constitutional referendum

Latest update : 2008-02-10

Burma's military government will hold a referendum on a new constitution in May this year followed by multi-party elections in 2010, the first in two decades, according to Burmese state television.

Myanmar's military government announced Saturday via state media that it will hold a referendum on a new constitution in May, clearing the way for multi-party elections in 2010.
  
"The referendum on the new constitution will be held in May 2008," state media announced.
  
"Multi-party democratic elections will be held in 2010, according to the new constitution," it added.
  
"It is suitable to change the military administration to a democratic, civil administrative system, as good fundamentals have been established," it said.
  
"The country's basic infrastructure has been built, although there is still more to do in striving for the welfare of the nation," said the government statement, read out over state television.
  
Myanmar last held elections in 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide, but the ruling junta has never recognised the result.
  
The military instead insisted on drafting a new constitution and convened a National Convention in 1993, which spent the next 14 years in fitfull meetings laying out the guidelines for a new charter.
  
In the early stages, the NLD participated in the talks, but the party later boycotted the National Convention in protest at Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest.
  
The Nobel peace prize winner has spent 12 of the last 18 years confined to her rambling lakeside home in Yangon, allowed little contact with the outside world.
  
The charter talks were held in secret at a military base north of Yangon, with 1,000 delegates who were mostly chosen by the regime.
  
The convention finally concluded on September 3, 2007, just weeks after anti-government demonstrations began appearing in Yangon in protest at an overnight hike in fuel prices in mid-August.
  
By the end of September, the protests had snowballed into the largest anti-government demonstrations in nearly 20 years. The military responded with a deadly crackdown in which security forces opened fire on crowds, killing at least 31 people, according to the United Nations.
  
International outrage at the violent suppression has resulted in enormous pressure on the regime to make good on its promises to move toward democratic reforms.

Date created : 2008-02-09

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