Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Myanmar's constitution stalled

ROAD TO NOWHERE?The constitution-drafting convention, the first of seven steps on the military's roadmap to democracy, was adjourned until some time next year


Myanmar's military government adjourned the country's much criticized constitution-drafting convention yesterday after more than two months of deliberations, delegates said.

Lieutenant General Thein Sein, chairman of the convention and a leading member of the ruling junta, announced at a plenary session that the framing of the constitution would resume at an unspecified time next year, according to delegates returning from the meeting.

The convention is drafting guidelines for a new constitution, the first of seven steps outlined in a "roadmap to democracy" which the junta says will culminate in free elections. No timetable has been announced for completion of the process.

Critics consider the proceedings a sham because most of the delegates are hand-picked, the military rubber-stamps the process and because pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- currently under house arrest -- is barred from the meetings.

More than 1,000 delegates had been meeting since Oct. 10 at Nyaung Hna Pin Convention Center, about 45km north of Yangon.

The closed-door sessions adopted basic principles for three more chapters of the constitution, including defining the role of the military.

Delegates representing politicians, ethnic minorities, workers, farmers, intellectuals and civil servants also discussed and made proposals about the basic principles for all remaining seven chapters of the 15 planned chapters.

Myanmar has been without a constitution since 1988, when the 1974 charter was suspended after the military violently suppressed pro-democracy protests.

The junta first convened the convention in 1993, but its work was aborted in 1996 after delegates from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party walked out in protest, saying it was undemocratic and that the military was manipulating the proceedings.

The convention was resurrected in 2004, although Suu Kyi's party continued to shun it.

The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 general elections but the military refused to hand over power, saying it first had to write a new constitution.

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