By LALIT K JHA
WASHINGTON — Eleven influential US women senators have written a joint letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to press the Burmese regime to abandon plans for a general election in 2010, saying they were based on a “unilaterally drafted constitution that violates international law.”
The letter was written by members of the US Senate Women Caucus on Burma—Dianne Feinstein and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the two co-chairwomen, Patty Murray, Olympia Snowe, Blanche Lincoln, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer, Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, and Lisa Murkowski.
The senators also charged that the constitution also “entrenches gender discrimination in Burma” by precluding women from holding high-level government positions and by attempting to give amnesty to the military junta, thus denying access to justice for the victims of the military regime’s systematic sexual violence against ethnic minority women.
In their letter, the senators also asked Ban to use his good offices to urge the military junta to facilitate a genuine and time-bound tripartite dialogue towards national reconciliation between Aung San Suu Kyi, the military regime and ethnic nationality representatives, as called for in the UN Security Council Presidential Statement of October 11, 2007.
The senators also appealed to Ban to continue to press for the unconditional release of Burma’s political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.
Acknowledging receipt of the letter, a spokesman for the UN secretary general’s office said: “The Secretary-General continues to follow closely the situation in Myanmar [Burma] to promote national reconciliation, democratic transition, and respect for human rights in accordance with the mandate given to him by the General Assembly.”
The statement said Ban has reaffirmed his concern over the current situation in Burma and reiterated his call to the military junta to release all the political prisoners, including Suu Kyi and to protect human rights of its own people.
“The Secretary-General and his Special Adviser [Ibrahim Gambari] have repeatedly called for her release and that of other political prisoners, and will continue to do so,” the spokesman said, adding that Ban called for the resumption of dialogue between the Burmese government and the opposition “without delay and without preconditions.”
“As you are aware, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recently announced its finding that Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued house arrest is not only a violation of international law but a violation of the Burmese law the regime purports to detain her under as well,” the letter said.
“While this finding is not surprising, it does provide us with insight into the Burmese military regime’s increasing disregard for the rule of law,” the Senators said.
In their letter, the senators accused the Burmese military regime of destroying more than 3,300 ethnic minority villages, displacing more than 1 million people, including more than half a million struggling to survive as internally displaced persons, using forced labor, forcibly recruiting tens of thousands of child soldiers and employing systematic rape as a weapon of war.
“We must not allow this regime to continue to commit such dire crimes unabated while the people of Burma continue to suffer,” the Senators wrote.