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[Statement] Statement concerning the forcible referendum by the SPDC and Aung San Suu Kyi's continued house arrest

5 June 2008


Human Rights Now,


On 10 and 24 May, the Myanmar SPDC forcefully carried out a referendum over a new constitution, and on 26 May, the SPDC announced that the constitution proposed by the SPDC was approved by 92.48 per cent of favorable votes with a turnout of 98 per cent.


Human Rights Now has warned that the new constitution would prolong an oppressive structure of the SPDC rather than promote democratization and protection of human rights, and stated that the constitution would not be worthy of being labeled a true democratization process unless all detainees of the pro-democracy movement are released immediately and the SPDC starts a dialogue with the pro-democracy movement.


In this process, the referendum was held in a situation where most Myanmar citizens were not granted the right to know the contents of the new constitution. Also, the movement against the constitution was deprived of all freedoms of expression and assembly during the abnormal circumstances of post- cyclone Nargis.


There are some reports that people were ordered to vote for the constitution by the SPDC without knowing the contents.


Human Rights Now strongly protests the forcible execution of the process. Moreover, the SPDC informed Aung San Suu Kyi, a democratization leader in Myanmar, of the extension of her house arrest on 27 May.

According to military regime sources, the length of the extension is six months but it can be one year. Human Rights Now expresses strong opposition to the SPDC's decision.


Aung San Suu Kyi's continued house arrest started in May 2003 after the Depyain massacre. Thus, she has been under the house arrest for six years due to the decision. (In total, she has been detained for more than twelve years since 1989.)


This decision violates not only international law but also Myanmar national law. Myanmar State Protection Law Article 10 (b) stipulates that a person who is regarded as a threat against the security of the state and peace of the people can be placed under house arrest for up to five years without any prosecutions or trials. Under this law, the maximum length of house arrest is five years and the deadline had already come in May 2008, although this law itself is completely unjustified.


Therefore, Myanmar national law does not allow further extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest and the SPDC's decision violates the national law enacted by the SPDC.


This decision has revealed again to the world that the roadmap, which the SPDC has promoted, cannot be compatible with true democracy and human rights. The international community has intensively censured the decision.


On 27 May, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed regret over the SPDC's decision about the extension of Aung San Suu Ki's house arrest, and leaders and ministers of U.S., U.K., Indonesia, Australia, France and so forth also expressed their concern and  disappointment over the decision.


However, while the Japanese government has actively been involved in post-cyclone clean-up and assistance efforts, it has been silent on and has remained noncommittal about the extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest. Such an attitude by Japanese government can be considered as compliance with the SPDC's illegal house arrest and denial of democratization.


Human Rights Now requests that the Japanese government express a clear message that Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be released immediately, take initiatives to have her released, demand the SPDC to release all detainees of pro-democracy movement, and start dialogue with  the pro-democracy movement and ethnic minorities by employing every possible diplomatic means in order to achieve democratization.


Human Rights Now