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White House Criticizes Burma Referendum Plan


The White House says the Burmese government's plan for a constitutional referendum in May and general elections in 2010 is not sufficient. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the Bush administration says the plan is neither open nor fair.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the election plan is flawed.

"The problem is not with the setting of a date for elections, but with the non-transparent and exclusive processes being promulgated by the regime," she said.

Perino says Burma's military leaders have been drafting a new constitution in closed meetings without any input from opposition leaders or minority ethnic groups.

She says the details of the draft constitution have not been shared with the Burmese public. And she says reports on its contents are troubling.

"The proposed constitution reportedly has many non-democratic features," said Perino. "For example, Aung San Suu Kyi would be banned from running for office because of her marriage to a foreigner."

Perino says the Burmese government must comply with the United Nations' call last October for an open and inclusive process that gives all the people of Burma a fair say in the structure and form of their new government.

Burma's military leaders announced the election plan on Saturday. Human rights groups have warned it may be a ploy to ease international pressure for reform, which intensified after a crack-down on pro-democracy demonstrations last year.

At the State Department, Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the military government continues to arrest and imprison peaceful political activists. He stressed there is a pervasive climate of fear, and said no referendum held under these conditions can be free, fair and credible.