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Junta’s new charter to perpetuate military rule

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November 3, 2008

Junta’s new charter to perpetuate military rule
Myanmar's ruling junta has issued an English version of the country's new constitution, which perpetuates military involvement in politics, nearly seven months after the native Burmese language version, reported the Associated Press.

A bilingual edition of the 457-article constitution in English and Burmese went on sale Saturday at government bookshops for $1.60.

The constitution, drafted under the junta's influence without input from the pro-democracy movement, was passed by a national referendum in May.

The junta said it received the backing of 92.48 percent of voters. But Myanmar's main opposition party charged that the authorities used coercion, intimidation, deception and misrepresentation to get voters' approval.

Critics say the constitution is designed to maintain the military's decades-old grip on power.

It guarantees 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the military and allows the president to hand over all power to the military's commander in chief in a state of emergency.

It stipulates that no amendments can be made to it without the consent of more than 75 percent of lawmakers, making any proposed changes unlikely unless supported by the military.

It also bars Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the pro-democracy movement, from public office because she was married to a foreigner -- the late Michael Aris, a British academic.

The constitution will come into force only after Parliament convenes following general elections scheduled for 2010.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party overwhelmingly won Myanmar's last elections in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.

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