Burmese junta pledges constitutional convention

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BANGKOK-Burma�s military government told a 12-nation meeting Monday it would hold a constitutional convention next year including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi�s party, the Thai Foreign Minister said. But a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi�s National League for Democracy (NLD) said it hadn�t been invited and couldn't discuss whether to attend such a convention until the junta frees two of its top leaders.

"We haven�t been invited," NLD Central Executive Committee member Lun Tin told RFA�s Burmese service. "And only when we have a full Central Executive Committee [meeting], with all members present, can we give them an answer regarding our attending the convention... That means when Aung San Suu Kyi and [NLD chairman] Aung Shwe are released."

"We can decide only when all members are present," Lun Tin said.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters after a half-day meeting in Bangkok that Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung had "explained to the meeting that the country will hold a national convention and draft a constitution next year."

"The beginning of this process is very important," he told reporters, adding that Win Aung told the meeting that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) would take part in the convention.

Win Aung faced intense pressure to indicate when the seven-point "road map" to democracy, unveiled by new Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt in August, would be implemented. The proposal had met with skepticism from the international community because it failed to include a timeframe or mention Aung San Suu Kyi, now under house arrest.

All political parties, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), would be invited to the convention, Surakiart quoted Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung as saying.

"The national convention will consist of around 800 people, and it is impossible to predict what 800 people will agree and when," Surakiart said.

The military government opened a convention in early 1993 aimed at drawing up a constitution that would enshrine a leading role for the military in politics. Aung San Suu Kyi's party walked out of it in 1995, and it hasn't met since 1996.

Most participants at the meeting on Monday sent junior ministers or senior Foreign Ministry officials. Only Indonesia, which dispatched influential former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, and the United Nations, which sent special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismael, sent senior figures.

Other participants included Australia, Austria, China, Singapore, Japan, Italy, India, France and Germany. The United States, which tightened sanctions on Burma after Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested again in May, wasn't invited.

Aung San Suu Kyi and scores of her supporters were detained at the end of May following a bloody attack on her convoy by pro-government gangs. She was held at a secret location�for her own safety, according to the Government�until September, when she went to hospital for an operation and then to her lakeside Rangoon villa under house arrest.

The NLD won a landslide general election victory in 1990 but the military, which has ruled the country since 1962, ignored the result.#####


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