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Burma Democracy Groups Criticize Kofi Annan’s Support for Junta’s National Convention (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
January 6th, 2004
Contact: (202) 223-0300


(Washington, DC) The International Campaign for Democracy in Burma (ICDB), a working committee of Burmese pro-democracy organizations, today sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan criticizing his public support for a handpicked “national convention” that Burma’s military regime says will lead to democracy in the country. The move follows similar criticism by several members of the US Congress, Amnesty International, and the Washington Post editorial page.

“We are deeply disappointed in you and your envoy Razali Ismail for lending your words of support to the Burma’s military junta,” reads the letter. “The regime’s promised national convention is not a real solution for Burma.”

Burma’s present military junta, which has ruled the country since 1988, announced the national convention in August 2003 after worldwide condemnation of its failed assassination attempt on 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, during which scores of Suu Kyi’s supporters were brutally beaten to death with iron rods and bamboo clubs. The United States, European Union, Canada, and Japan all increased sanctions and/or withheld foreign aid after the attack, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations broke with tradition in harshly criticizing the regime.

However, since that time, the junta has been able to diffuse increased international pressure by promising a transition to democracy through the national convention. On December 19th, Secretary General Annan welcomed the national convention, following a similar statement by his special envoy to Burma, Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail.

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi and the leadership of the National League for Democracy, which won Burma’s last democratic election in a landslide, remain imprisoned or under house arrest. The junta has already handpicked 144 of the delegates for the convention, choosing their allies and cronies, and appears to be re-creating a similar convention it held from 1993-1996. The junta forced the NLD to attend the convention by threatening to de-register it as a party while Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest, but in 1996 the junta expelled the NLD delegates and adjourned the convention after the NLD called for changes in convention procedures that effectively guaranteed the junta’s grip on power and blocked open debate.

The letter echoes complaints made by Amnesty International and the Washington Post. Said Amnesty after its recent investigation in Burma, “Claims by Burma’s military regime that it is implementing a ‘road map’ towards democracy starting with a national convention would remain hollow as long as it keep senior opposition figures in jail amidst a spreading ‘climate of fear.’” Said the Washington Post in a December 23rd editorial, “The rest of the world should not indulge the ruling thugs in their cynical game of make-believe.”

In the letter, ICDB made seven requests of Annan, beginning with the dismissal of Ismail. Said the letter, “His [Ismail’s] publicly and repeatedly stated belief that the only possible route to change in Burma is through constantly praising the regime is simply not true. There is an alternative–global, targeted economic and political sanctions, which has been called for repeatedly by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD.” The letter then calls on Annan to use his authority to raise Burma at the UN Security Council.


ICDB is a working committee of Burmese pro-democracy groups from around the world. It was founded
on October 11-12th, 2003 at the world’s largest gathering of Burmese democracy activists-in-exile.
ICDB operates under the leadership of the National Council of the Union of Burma and the NationalCoalition Government of the Union of Burma, the country’s government in exile.

Contact: Aung Din (Washington, DC) (202) 223-0300, 
Tin Maung Thaw (Virginia) (703) 834-5670,

Moe Chan (New York) (646) 643-8689, 
Nyunt Than (San Francisco) (510) 220-1323, 
Nyein Chan Oo (Indiana) (260) 704-0242, 
Win Shwe (Indiana)(260) 456-9465,

Nai Banyar Dean (Indiana) (260) 447-7741, 
UHan Lin (Ithaca) (607) 351-6222, and
Ye Htut (Japan)