MEDIA RELEASE

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ALEXANDER DOWNER




FA 102 / New York
27 September 1996


BURMA: CRACKDOWN ON DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT


The actions of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to suppress the National League for Democracy's (NLD) party congress on 27 September are totally unacceptable, and yet another example of the SLORC's total disregard for normal political freedoms. There are reliable reports that at least fifty six NLD members of Parliament elect and more than thirty two party organisers have been detained. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior party leaders have not been detained so far.

It appears that action was taken against the party congress to prevent discussion of the NLD' s proposed national constitution - a constitution the NLD is drafting in parallel with the constitution of the SLORC-sanctioned National Convention. The Burmese authorities claimed that the participants in the congress were acting in contravention of a draconian decree the SLORC had passed in June 1996.

The SLORC used similar heavy-handed methods to disrupt the NLD's last party congress in May 1996. In the lead-up to that congress, 262 NLD members were detained, the majority Mps-elect. Sixty-one of these are still in detention.

I have asked our Ambassador in Rangoon to protest to the Burmese authorities about these actions in the strongest terms. In the meantime, we will be monitoring the situation closely to see what further action we should take. I urge the SLORC to abandon its repression of non-violent political opposition and address its differences with the NLD in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise. I call upon it to release all those detained immediately.




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