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MYANMAR
Politics
July 18, 2007

Charter meet resumes
Myanmar's military government opened on July 18 what it says will be the final session of a national convention aimed at completing a process launched 14 years ago to draw up guidelines for a new constitution, reported Associated Press.

Critics call the proceedings a sham because the junta hand-picked most of the delegates and because pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, currently under house arrest, cannot attend.

The meeting aims to complete the first stage of what the junta has called a seven-step "road map" to democracy that is supposed to culminate in free elections, although no timetable has been announced.

In his opening speech, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, the acting prime minister, called the convention the most important part of the road map, and urged delegates not to try to amend points previously agreed to.

"Since this is the last session, delegates are asked to review the principles ... without deviating from the already agreed guidelines," he said. Thein Sein, also the chairman of the National Convention Convening Commission, said most of the population supports the convention, but that a small "negative-looking group" opposes it.

He warned that legal action will be taken against anyone who tries to derail the process. The convention, meeting after a seven-month hiatus, could take about a month and a half to complete, Information Minister Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan said.

More than 1,000 delegates from across the country gathered at the Nyaung-Hna-Pin convention center, about 25 miles north of the commercial capital Yangon, for the meeting.

Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has been without a constitution since 1988, when the current junta took power and suspended a 1974 charter. The guidelines set by the national convention are to be used in writing a new constitution, but the junta has not publicly said who will draft the charter. AP

 

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