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Burma's Military Government Appoints Commission to Draft Constitution


Burma's military government says it has appointed a committee tasked with drafting the country's constitution.

State media Thursday report the 54-member committee will be chaired by Chief Justice Aung Toe.

The move is another step in the military government's so-called "road map" to democracy that it says will lead to elections in the future.

The guidelines for a new charter were decided during 14 years of talks that ended in September. The party of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not a participant in those talks and the guidelines bar her from holding office.

The U.S. State Department Thursday reproached the Burmese government for failing to halt its crackdown, release political prisoners, or open a dialogue with its political opponents.

Burmese state media claim the government is still holding nearly 380 people arrested in the crackdown on protesters.

Separately, the U.N. World Food Program reports that an estimated five million people in Burma, or roughly 10 percent of its population, are on the verge of starvation.

Earlier today, the United Nations envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, suggested that international powers give Burma incentives to let it know that the world is not just there to punish its military rulers.

Gambari is in Jakarta as part of an Asian tour aimed at increasing pressure on Burma's government after its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests last month.

Gambari says he will make his next trip to Burma around mid-November, or earlier, if possible.

He hopes to meet with Burma's top military leader, General Than Shwe, and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the visit.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.