Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 5 News List

UN envoy slams Myanmar assembly

`MASS HOUSE ARREST' A rights expert says the constitution-drafting assembly is so tightly controlled that it's `a meaningless and undemocratic exercise'

REUTERS , BANGKOK

A top UN human rights envoy likened military-ruled Myanmar's constitution-drafting assembly to "mass house arrest" yesterday and said he had no idea why the junta still held democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who has twice been denied entry to the former Burma since a visit last November, said he did not understand why the junta had falsely promised to release the Nobel peace laureate after a year of detention.

It had also reneged on commitments to ease restrictions on her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in time for last month's start of the constitutional National Convention without providing any explanation, he said.

"It's a mystery for me," Pinheiro told reporters in the Thai capital. "I am terribly depressed and sad."

He also poured scorn on the junta's "roadmap to democracy," which is meant to pave the way to multiparty rule after 42 years of military dictatorship, including a 1990 election in which the NLD won a landslide victory only to be denied power by the army.

"The roadmap has had a most regrettable launching," he said, going on to describe the National Convention -- the first step of the roadmap -- as an "enormous effort for a meaningless and undemocratic exercise."

"The [government] has condemned those 1,088 people to house arrest," he said, adding that democratic transition would be impossible unless Myanmar's generals eased curbs on free or open discussion at the convention.

The convention is being held at a tightly-guarded compound outside Yangon, where delegates are banned from criticizing the state or disclosing information. Delegates have been urged to avoid bathing at inappropriate times and not eat junk food.

"If you go through this path, you will not be successful. It will not work. This has not worked in Brazil, in Uruguay, in Argentina, in Portugal, in Spain, in the Philippines, in Indonesia. This political transition will not work. It will not work on the moon. It will not work on Mars," he said.

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