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Burma's FM: Constitutional Conference Next Year - 2003-12-15


Burma's foreign minister has told an international conference his government will schedule a national convention next year to draft a new constitution.

Foreign Minister Win Aung announced the development today (Monday) in Bangkok, where delegates from 12 countries gathered to discuss Rangoon's so-called "road map" to democracy.

His announcement was relayed to journalists by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

The Thai official said Win Aung promised that all political parties and minority groups will be allowed to take part in drafting a new constitution. He said a referendum would be held on the draft constitution later in 2004.

Burma's military government lost a general election to the opposition in 1990, but refused to give up power. It convened a constitutional convention in early 1993, but the forum collapsed when the opposition withdrew.

Thai officials said this is just the first in a series of planned meetings on the subject of democracy in Burma. Although Rangoon sent Foreign Minister Win Aung to the one-day forum, most other countries sent junior ministers. The United States was not invited to attend.

Political progress in Burma has been at a stand-still since a bloody confrontation between pro-democracy demonstrators and government supporters last May. Since that confrontation, many of the nation's top opposition leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, have been in detention or under house arrest.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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