Cries of foul play as 'new Burma' is hoisted

As the rooftop landscape of Burma changed yesterday with the hoisting of a new flag, critics of the junta have said that the country’s identity change came too early.

According to opposition politicians, Burmese law states that the 2008 constitution must come into force before any new flag is raised. This shouldn’t happen until after the controversial 7 November elections.

Nay Myo Wei, general secretary of the Diversity and Peace Party (DPP), which is running in the polls, said that the junta had exploited a legal loophole to make it appear as if it had complied with the law.

“This is very controversial so it shouldn’t be carried out by either the government leaders nor the political leaders [competing in the elections],” he said.

The criticism was echoed by Thein Oo, chairman of the exiled Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC), who claimed that the junta was “already abusing and violating the constitution even before it has started, and this is definitely not a good sign for Burma in the future”.

A government announcement yesterday said however that it was part of “preparatory work to bring the Constitution into operation”.

One civil servant who attended the ceremony in the capital, Naypyidaw, said that every government ministry was ordered to hold the flag-changing ceremony at 3pm concurrently.

While the star on the new flag is meant to signify ”the perpetual existence of the consolidated Union’, observers claim it is the stamp of the army. The green officially represents peace, yellow solidarity, and red valour.

A name change was also implemented as flags were raised across the country. It is now officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, where previously it was just the Union of Myanmar.

The country’s pro-democracy movement, as well as a number of Western governments, continue however to call it Burma – the name given to the country by the British. Prior to the start of colonial rule, it was variously called Birmah, Bermah and Brama.

The generals have promised a transition to civilian governance following the elections, but critics say the polls are merely a cosmetic lift, with military rule set to continue.

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