Army 'responsible for ensuring democratic transition'

Apr 12, 2009 (DVB), Burma's second-in-command has told new army recruits that it is their responsibility to ensure a smooth transition to democracy following next year's scheduled elections, reported a state-run newspaper.

The comments were made on Friday at a ceremony for graduates of the Defense Services (Army) Officers Training School in Rangoon.

"Some countries faced instability following electoral violence due to the fact that, the democratic practice had not been mature enough," said Vice-Senior General Maung Aye.

"I would say you are responsible for seeing to democratic transition process in cooperation with the people for successful completion of the 2010 elections."

Opposition parties in Burma have slammed the 2010 elections as being farcical, given that the redrafted 2008 constitution guarantees a continuation of military rule and prevents opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office.

"Since the 1974 constitution was no longer effective, the government, the people and the Tatmadaw [army] had worked hard together to write an enduring constitution that can guarantee the market economy and the democracy practice, as aspired by the people," said Maung Aye.

"The vast majority of the people approved the new constitution last year."

The constitution was drafted without input from the opposition National League for Democracy, who launched a campaign to encourage the public to vote against the constitution.

The NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections but the results were never honoured by the ruling military government.

Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest following the elections, and has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention.

Even before votes are cast next year, the military will have already been guaranteed a hugely influential number of seats in parliament.

The majority of political opposition groups have said they will not contest the elections unless the constitution is revised.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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