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Last modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009

IU Maurer School of Law, Harvard Law to sponsor Burma panel

May 13, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Maurer School of Law will partner with the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic this Friday (May 15) for an in-depth discussion on the human rights and political challenges facing the people of Burma.

Indiana Law Professor David C. Williams, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Democracy (CCD), will participate on a panel as part of a conference titled "Burma: Addressing the Challenges Ahead," at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The discussion is also being sponsored by the U.S. Campaign for Burma, the Genocide Intervention Network, and the American Jewish World Service. The CCD works in Burma, Liberia and Vietnam training the reform leaders of these countries in constitutionalism, parliamentary process and legal ordering.

David Williams

David Williams

Print-Quality Photo

Williams said that with a new president in the White House, this is the perfect opportunity to begin strategizing a new approach in dealing with Burmese leaders.

"With a new administration, we're looking at how the United States can re-orient and think through ways that might bring about democracy in Burma," Williams said. "We want to look to address the concerns of various senators to see how the U.S. might best promote democracy there. The U.S. has mostly been utilizing sanctions, but we need to explore new paths forward. The current regime there is willing to let people suffer, and it's not like the country is under worldwide sanctions. They can still get things."

Burma, officially known as the Union of Myanmar, has been ruled by the military junta since 1962. The military dictatorship -- led by Than Shwe -- held a referendum in May 2008 to adopt a drafted constitution, with plans to host multi-party elections in 2010. The outcome of those elections will go a long way toward determining whether Burma is on a path toward democracy.

"Part of what the Senate needs to think about is what's going to happen in 2010," Williams said. "There is a range of possible outcomes in the next two years in terms of democratizing Burma. There are deep decisions to be made. Should the U.S. completely boycott the process and look for a regime change, or do we go with the process of hoping that we'll see incremental change?"

Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said he looks forward to having Williams and others in Washington, D.C., to help think about the answers to those questions.

"The situation in Burma today is alarmingly deteriorating and moving down a dangerous path while the military regime continues with its scheduled elections in 2010. But the international community has been slow to respond while the U.S. is engaged in its slow and indefinite process of a policy review on Burma," Din said. "This seminar is intended to urge the U.S. government to urgently and effectively lead the world to help the people of Burma from falling into increased turmoil, as orchestrated by the military regime."