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/* posted 8 Nov 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* --------------" HRSUB: Dept. of Foreign Affairs "----------------- */

[Subject:  To inquire into and report on the human rights situation
and lack of progress towards democracy  in  Myanmar(Burma)  by  the
Human Rights Sub-Committee of the parliament of Australia.
        Submissions made to this enquiry   by  various  people  and
organisations are re-posted here.-- U Ne Oo]


Part 1 of 3.


Senator Stephen Loosley
Human Rights Sub-Committee
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs
Defence and Trade

Dear Stephen

I  am  pleased  to  provide  my  Department's  contribution to your
Sub-Committee's enquiry into the human rights situation and lack of
progress towards democracy in Myanmar.

I look forward to receiving a copy of your report when your enquiry
has been finalised.

Yours sincerely




Term  of  reference: To enquire into and report on the human rights
situation and lack of progress towards democracy in Myanmar.


1. Violations of human rights,  particularly  civil  and  political
rights,  have  been  a  feature  of government in Myanmar since the
military seized power in 1962, and in preceeding  decades.  However
the  military  suppression  of the democratic movement in 1988, and
the State Law and Order Restoration Council's (SLORC's)  subsequent
blanket  refusal to accept the results of the 1990 elections, which
were universally regarded as free and fair, added  new dimension to
Myanmar's  problems,  and  prompted  a  chorus   of   international
condemnation.  Myanmar  remains out of step with the broad regional
trend towards more participative  systems  of  government  and  its
people  continue  to  miss  out  on  the benefits of rapid economic
growth being experienced inother countries of the region.

2.   At  the  same  time,  there  have  been  a  number  of  recent
developments which can be taken as signs of greater flexibility  on
the  part  of the SLORC. Senior SLORC figures have met Aung San Suu
Kyi twice over recent months, which could signal  the  start  of  a
dialogue  on  substantive political issues, particularly the future
shape of Myanmar's political  structure,  and  could  lead  to  her
release  from  house  arrest.  Moreover,  the  National Convention,
despite its shortcomings, provides a process to establish the frame
work of governence in Myanmar for the future. The  SLORC  has  made
some concessions in its dealings with the ethnic insurgents as part
of  its  national  reconciliation policy, although it remains to be
seen how substantive these concessions will be. The SLORC has  also
begun  to  move  away  from  its  former  central planning economic
policies (albeit in a haphazard way) and to lay  the foundations of
an "open door" economic policy, leading to the creation of a market

3. This submission focuses on current  developments  in  the  human
rights  situation  and political process in Myanmar. The issues are
addressed under three broad headings:  constitutional  development,
Aung San Suu Kyi, and other issues of human rights concerns.

4.  It  is  difficult  to  comment  definitively  on aspects of the
situation  in  Myanmar.  Myanmar  has  for  many  decades  remained
isolated  from the international mainstream, and access to detailed
factual  reports  can  be  difficult  to   obtain.   Against   this
background,  reports  prepared for the United Nations commission of
Human Rights by its Special Rapporteur, Professor Yozo Yokota,  are
of particular significance. Prefessor Yolota's latest report, based
on his visit to Myanmar in Movember 1993, was published in February
1994.  Professor  Yokota is expected to make a further report which
should be published in late November 1994. The Department  will  be
pleased  to  provide  a  copy to the Sub-committee when this report
becomes available.

5. Moreover, the current situation in Myanmar is characterised by a
degree of fluidity. As we have observed, the prospects for Aung san
Suu Kyi remain uncertain. The National Convention, which is central
to the country's political future, has not yet finalised its  work.
Moreover,  while  a  number  of  SLORC  proposals are clear enough,
others are obscure. The SLORC appears to have firm control  of  the
National  convention process, but the extent to which it will allow
modification of its draft proposals remains uncertain. Accordingly,
the final form of Myanmar's new constitution is far from clear.

Civil and political Rights
a. Constitutional Development
6. Myanmar currently  lacks  a  valid  constitution.  The  previous
constitution,  adopted  in 1974 during General Ne Win's long period
of rule, was superseded with the collapse of the government  of  Dr
Maung  Maung,  Ne Win's surrogate, in July 1988.(Ne Win resigned as
party leader of the Burma Socialist  Programme  Party  on  23  July
1988.)  In  response  to widespread civil disturbance, the military
seized control and established the State Law and Order  Restoration
Council  on  18 September 1988. The SLORC then held elections on 27
May 1990 to  elect  a  People's  Assembly  which  would  act  as  a
legislature  as  well as draft a new constitution. With the refusal
of the SLORC to allow the victorious National League for  Democracy
(NLD)  which  won  392  of  the 495 seats to assume office, and the
crushing of public protests  over  the  role  of  the  military,  a
constitutional vacuum was created. The SLORC tool the power to rulw
by  decree,  and has been slow to take steps towards constitutional
and civilian rule.

7. It was not until 1992 that the SLORC began to implement plans to
draft a new constitutoon, using a National convention consisting of
delegates chosen  by  it.  The  702  delegates  to  the  Convention
nominated   by   the   SLORC  were  drown  from  eight  categories:
representtatives elected in the 1990 elections (107, 91 of whom are
from the NLD); representatives from  political  parties,  including
the  NLD  (49);  representatives  of  the  ethnic minorities (215);
peasants (93); workers (48); intellectuals  and  technocrats  (41);
state  service  personnel  (92);  and  other invitees (57) . The 49
delegates representing political parties were  drawn  from  the  10
political parties that remained of the 27 that had won seats at the
1990  elections,  although the inclusion of over a hunderd of those
elected  on  party  tickets  in  1990  helped  to   bolster   party
representation.  The  SLORC  carefully  selected  members  for  the
convention who were likely to sympathise with its  aspirations  for
Myanmar's future.

8.  In his address to the National Convention on its opening day, 9
January 1993, the chairman of  the  National  Convention  convening
commission   (   the   preparatory   body   for   the  Convention),
Major-General Myo Nyunt, outlined the SLORC's  objectives  for  the
formulation  of a constitution: non-disintegration of the Union and
national   solidarity;   perpetuation   of   sovereignty;   genuine
multiparty  democracy;  "further  burgeoning  of  the  noblest  and
worthiest of wordly values such as justice, liberty and  equality";
and participation by the tatmadaw (i.e. the armed forces of Myanmar
) in a national political leadership role of the future state.

9.  The  national  convention is currently in its fifth session. It
has first defined a series of "fundamental principles"  to  be  the
basis  of  the  draft constitution and it is now fleshing these out
into a preliminary  draft  text.  The  current  session,  which  is
expected  to  last  until  the  end  of the year, is addressing the
chapters dealing with the structure of  the  state,  including  the
executive  and  judiciary,  the  legislature  and  the  creation of
autonomous zones for the thnic  minorities  not  having  their  own

10.  Constitutional  drafting  has  been fitful and protracted. The
SLORC has  kept  a  tight  rein  on  proceedings  at  the  National
Convention  and, where deeming necessary, has overridden objections
and alternative proposals from the political parties. In  addition,
NLD  members,  including  some who are delegates to the convention,
have been harassed and imprisoned  for  making  comments  that  are
critical of National convention proposals and methods.

11.  At  its current rate of progress, the Convention could take at
least a further twelve months to complete discussion of  the  basic
principles  to  be  included in the fifteen substantive chapters of
the projected constitution. The steps after this  process  are  not
clear.  The  constitution  will need to be drafted and, presumably,
pass through some process of public  ratification  or  endorsement.
Whether   that   will  be  by  the  Convention  itself,  by  public
referendum, or some other consulative process has  not  been  spelt
out  by the SLORC. Nor has the SLORC been prepared to commit itself
publicly to any timetable  for  completion  of  the  constitutional

12.  The  constitutional development process is still evolving, and
it is not yet possible to obtain a  clear  picture  of  the  likely
final  outcome.  According  to  the SLORC's program for reform, the
National Convention will lead to some form of  elected  government.
Until the final text of the constitution is available and the first
elections under it are held, it will be difficult to assess the new
political  system  to emerge from the national Convention. However,
it appears that entrenching a central role for the military, and  a
lack  of  accountability  on the part of the military to parliament
will be major areas of concern. The  following  paragraphs  reflect
our  understanding  of  the  current  state of play in the National
Convention's work.

(i) Form of the state
13. Under the SLORC's current proposals as we understand them,  the
"Republic  of the Union of Myanmar" would comprise seven states and
seven regions. The right to secession would be  precluded  for  all
time.   The   regioun  would  be:Ayeyarwady  (previously  known  as
Irrawaddy),   Bago(Pegu),   Mandalay,    Magway(Magwe),    Sagaing,
Tanintharyi  (Tennassrim)  and Yangon(Rangoon). The states would be
Arakan, Chin, Sachin, Kayah,  Kayin(Karen),  Mon,  and  Shan.  Each
state  and  region  would  have  a degree of authnomy, with its own
government and legislature, although, as already noted, the  extent
of this autonomy remains to be clarified. The regions are generally
the  lowland  areas  of  central  Myanmar,  populated by the ethnic
Burman majority; while the states are generally the highland  areas
populated by the various ehtnic minorities.

(ii) Role of the military
14.  ONe  of  the  main  objectives  of  the constitutional process
embarked upon by the SLORC through the National Convention  appears
to  be  the consolidation and legitimisation of the military's role
in Myanmar's future political arrangements. The National Convention
has endorsed the SLORC's "preferences" for a bicameral  parliament,
in  which the military would hold a quarter of all seats. (The same
allocation would apply to State legislature.) The  president  would
be  elected  by  and electoral college comprisong three groups (the
lower house, the upper house and the military representatives).  Of
particualr  concern  under the SLORC guidelines is that there would
be no civilian authority over, or oversight of, the  armed  forces.
Moreover,  the  commander-in-chief  (the  senior  military officer)
would be vested  with  the  authority  to  takepower  in  times  of
national  emergency.  The  ministerial portfolios of home/security,
defence and border areas would also be reserved for the military. A
preminent feature of the SLORC's proposals  is  thus  firm  central
control  by  the  military.  After  this  session  of  the National
Convention, further issues remain to be  addressed,  including  the
commander-in-chief's emergency powers.

(iii) Head of state
15. The previous session of the National Convention which opened on
18  January  1994  established  the  draft  qualifications  for the
presidency. Under the SLORC's blueprint,  the  president  would  be
elected  by  an  electoral  college. the electoral college would be
parliamane, divided into three groups: the lower house,  the  upper
house  and  the  tatmadaw representatives. After each group chose a
presidental  candidate, the parliament as a whole would vote on the
candidates, with the  two  losers  becoming  vice  presidents.  The
president,  who  would  be  elected for a term of five years, would
hole executive power. Also, significantly, the president must be  a
person  who  has resided continously in the country for at least 20
years and whose parents, spouse, childern and their spouses do  not
owe allegience toa foreign power. These proposals operate blatantly
to exclude Aung San Suu Kyi from eligibility for the presidency.

(iv) The legislature
16.  Under  SLORC prososals now under consideration by the National
Convention, there are to be two  houses  of  parliament:  popularly
elected  lower  house (the Pyithu Hluttaw or national Assembly) and
an upper house, (the Amyotha Hluttaw, characterised as  the  "house
of  nationalities").  The  lower  house would comprise a member for
each of Myanmar's 324 townships ( to a  maximum  of  330)  and  110
tatmadaw  representatives nominated by the commander -in chief. the
upper house would be comprised of 12 elected  representatives  from
each  state/region and an additional four representatives from each
state/region nominated by the tatmadaw. Members of parliament would
serve a five year term.

17. Oualifications for election to the legislature would not be  as
noerous  as  those  for  the  presidency,  but would still serve to
exclude most of the current opposition leadeership by virtue  of  a
provision  which  prohibits  the  election of a person who has been
convicted of an offence and sentenced to a prison term. Members  of
the  lower  house  must  have  lived in the country for the last 10
years and not  hold  the  citizenship  of  another  country  of  an
allegiance  to another power (again effectively ruling out Aung San
Suu Kyi). Both parents must also be Myanmar citizens  (which  would
exclude Aung San Suu Kyi's childern should they decide to stand for

18.   According   to   the  SLORC  blueprint,  the  fourteen  state
legislatures are to organised along similar lines to  the  national
legislature,    including,    as    indicated,   a   25%   tatmadaw
representation. Chief ministers would not be elected, but would  be
appointed  by,  and  directly  responsible to, the president. Chief
ministers will appoint ministers, but security and  border  affairs
are to be handled by tatmadaw representatives. The tatmadaw is also
to  be  given a mandate to "participate as necessary" in "security,
enforcement of law and regional peace and tranquility" down to  the
township  level.  These  two  key  features  are  likely to inhibit
significantly the free exercise of political autonomy by the ethnic

Part 1 of 3.