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US Lawmakers Condemn Burma's Military Over Referendum


The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning Burma's military government for what lawmakers call an undemocratic constitution-drafting process. VOA's Dan Robinson has more from Capitol Hill.

Approved by 413 to 1 vote, the resolution calls the referendum Burma's military rulers plan to hold on a new constitution a one-sided, undemocratic and illegitimate legalization of military rule.

It urges Burma's military to unconditionally release from house arrest, and begin a meaningful tri-partite dialogue with, opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi, and restore human rights and civil freedoms for the people of Burma.

Lawmakers also demand the immediate release of all Buddhist monks detained or imprisoned in nationwide demonstrations last September, along with other political prisoners.

In statements, lawmakers referred to the loss of life and devastation caused in Burma by the recent cyclone, with reports of tens of thousands killed and missing.

At the same time, they noted the Burmese military's decision to proceed with a constitutional referendum, except in areas hardest hit by the storm.

Congressman Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says Americans will stand by the people of Burma, but he calls the constitutional process a sham.

"The people of the United States need to stand with the people of Burma and oppose the junta. This referendum later this week would be a sham, a fake, a pretend, it would be bogus, fraudulent, spurious, phony, use whatever word you want, but it would not be democratic, it would not be to the benefit of the people of Burma who want a true democracy," he said.

Republican Texas Congressman Ted Poe expressed similar views. "This constitution ignores the will of the people of Burma, expressed in the streets of Rangoon and other cities last fall. This one-sided constitution seeks to legitimize military-dictatorship rule," he said.

Members of Congress have also been urging Burma's military to lift any restrictions on humanitarian aid in the wake of the cyclone.

"I do recall visiting Burma several decades ago following an earthquake that devastated [the Burmese city of] Pagan, and the willful, unwillingness of the military dictatorship then to accept international help," Holt said.

Among other points, the resolution also refers to the military's extension of house arrest earlier this year for key opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) figure U Tin Oo.

It says Burma's military through its planned constitutional referendum is again trying to abolish the results of the 1990 election in Burma in which the NLD won a majority of seats.

Lawmakers also say the United States should urge the U.N. Security Council to reject any constitution coming from the referendum, and they call on Southeast Asian nations in (ASEAN) to become more deeply involved in efforts to end what the measure calls Burmese military political intransigence and promote meaningful political dialogue.

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