Burma's main opposition party has again demanded the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest so she can attend a constitutional convention next month.
The National League for Democracy, or NLD, repeated its demand for Aung San Suu Kyi's release a day after the military government invited it and other parties to attend the National Convention on May 17. The NLD leader has been confined to her home since her supporters clashed with pro-government groups nearly a year ago. Dozens of party members were detained and three other members of the party's central committee are still under house arrest. The NLD said Thursday it would only make a decision on attending the convention after all members of the central committee, including those being detained, are allowed to meet on the matter. The statement said the release of Aung San Suu Kyi would "demonstrate clearly to the international community that some change in the political climate in Myanmar has taken place."
The government says the convention will begin the process of drafting a new constitution and moving toward democracy.
Aung Zaw, editor of Irawaddy, a Burmese publication in Thailand, says the convention will have no credibility if Aung San Suu Kyi is not free.
"I think that everyone is expecting that sooner or later the government will invite all parties, particularly the NLD, but also, without releasing Aung San Suu Kyi, I think people will wonder why they have made such invitation without releasing Aung San Suu Kyi," he said. The national convention is the first step in Burma's so-called road map to democracy. Many foreign governments, including the United States, Japan and the European Union have demanded the release of Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of the constitutional forum. Aung Zaw says even if she is freed before the convention, it is doubtful how democratic the process will be.
"I think how they are going to hold the convention also is very unclear. How the media will be given access to monitor? How the delegates will be given a freer expression or free speech to discuss the country's problems is unclear," he said. "The people, Burmese people have little idea, little information on how the convention is going to be held." The original National Convention opened in 1993 but was suspended in 1996 after the NLD walked out, saying the military was manipulating the process to stay in power. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party overwhelmingly won the 1990 elections, but the government refused to hand over power. She has spent much of the since under house arrest.