Myanmar: to resume convention to draft constitution, state media reports

Myanmar's military government said it would resume a key meeting to draft a constitution, the first step on the country's self-set path to democracy, state radio and television reported.

The national convention would resume on Dec. 5 after a hiatus of more than eight months, the reports said yesterday.

The government had adjourned the meeting on March 31, saying the 1,000 plus delegates including farmers and businessmen needed to return to work.

Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, a leading junta leader who chairs the National Convention Convening Commission, said the meeting would adopt guidelines agreed upon at the previous session when delegates had closed-door discussions on power-sharing involving the judicial and executive sectors.

The convention is the first step in the junta's seven-stage road map toward democracy that is supposed to lead to free elections, but no timetable has been set to complete the task.

Critics consider the proceeding a sham because the delegates were hand-picked by the military, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate and her party, the National League for Democracy, was not taking part.

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

The party and its members have faced constant harassment and Suu Kyi has been in detention since May 2003. The junta's refusal to release her was one reason the party boycotted the meeting.

The party also accuses the military of using the convention as a ploy to deflect international criticism of its failure to turn over power to a democratically-elected government.

The biggest party representing the Shan Myanmar's second-largest ethnic group after the Burmans also boycotted the meeting, along with a smaller minority organization

The conference first convened in May last year.

A similar convention was held several years ago, but its work was aborted after the NLD walked out in protest that its procedures were not democratic, AP reports.