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Burmese Constitutional Convention to Resume Monday


In Burma, a constitutional convention organized by the military government is due to resume its work on Monday. The government says the meeting is a first step toward democracy, but critics say the process is not likely to be recognized internationally because some important political groups have been excluded.

Burma's National Convention resumes debate on a new constitution after a nine month break.

The deputy chairman of the convention, Chief Justice Aung Toe, says this session will discuss power sharing among the administrative, judicial and legislative branches of government, and the armed forces.

"When all the necessary fundamental principles and detailed basic principles for drafting the constitution are obtained at the national convention, the implementation of necessary tasks will be carried according to the seven-point road map of the state," said Aung Toe.

Burma's military leaders say the convention is the first step of a seven-step roadmap to democracy that includes a referendum on the draft constitution and multiparty elections.

A member of the democratic movement, independent politician U Win Naing, says the convention will not make any progress toward democracy because many opposition politicians have been excluded.

"Without the participation of these politicians and the democratic forces I don't think there is ever going to be any significant results coming out of this national convention," said U Win Naing.

The military government held elections in 1990, which were won by the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi. But it refused to hand over power. Since then Rangoon has been under pressure to carry out political reform and release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

The NLD is boycotting the convention until the government releases its leaders and 100 party members. It also criticizes the process, saying the government is controlling the debate and has handpicked the delegates, which the government denies.

The convention opens amid new international pressure for reform.

The United Nations Security Council this past week agreed to discuss for the first time what was termed the deteriorating situation in Burma. And an association of Southeast Asian lawmakers called for the expulsion of Burma from ASEAN if Aung San Suu Kyi is not released in one year.