Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Pro-democracy activists warn of Myanmar violence

ELABORATE PLOT The 88 Generation Students, a coalition of leading activists, said the junta's move is a ploy to abolish the 1990 election results

AFP , BANGKOK

Pro-democracy activists in Myanmar yesterday warned the ruling junta could unleash a new wave of violence to ensure victory in a constitutional referendum, urging voters to reject the regime's charter.

The junta made a surprise announcement late on Saturday that it would bring its proposed constitution before the public for approval in May, setting the stage for elections in 2010.

If held, the elections would be the first since 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta.

COALITION

The 88 Generation Students, a coalition of leading democracy activists, said the regime was trying to use the referendum to abolish the 1990 election results and legalize its dictatorship in the country formerly known as Burma.

The group branded the referendum as a "declaration of war" against the people, accusing the junta of planning to use security forces and state-backed militias to intimidate and even beat the population into approving the charter.

"The upcoming constitutional referendum will be a major battle field between the military regime, which wants to rule the country forever and the people of Burma, who want to be free from the military rule," the group said in a statement.

LEGALIZE

"The regime is attempting to legalize the military dictatorship with a sham-constitution. This is the declaration of war by the military regime against the people of Burma, who want to uphold the 1990 elections results and honor the will of the people," it said.

Many of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students were arrested in August, after they started holding small demonstrations in protest at an unannounced hike in fuel prices.

After their arrest, Buddhist monks began leading the protest movement, which swelled into the biggest challenge to military rule since 1988.

With more than 100,000 people in the streets, security forces launched a violent crackdown in late September, when the UN estimates at least 31 people were killed.

The group's latest statement, distributed by overseas activists, was signed by three of its top members who have been in hiding since the crackdown.

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