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US: Opposition Must Participate in Burma Convention - 2004-03-30


The United States says the national political convention being proposed by Burma's military junta cannot succeed without the release and full participation of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained members of her party. The Burmese junta said Tuesday the convention will be held in mid-May.

The national convention to open May 17th is the first step in the so-called "road map" to democracy outlined by the Burmese military leadership in August of last year.

But the State Department says the process will go nowhere without the full participation of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy colleagues who have been detained for nearly a year.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States had no information on who would be invited to attend the political gathering, but said it is "quite clear" that the early release and participation of the NLD leadership would be essential to any serious attempt at national reconciliation.

"Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy need to be released from prison so that they can participate fully in preparations for national reconciliation and democracy. For any kind of constitutional convention to be successful, the political opposition and ethnic groups must support it, and they must be involved in preparations for it. They would need to be full participants in a convention that allows for a free exchange of views," Mr. Boucher said.

The Burmese leadership has been vague about details and follow-on steps for its democracy "road map." Mr. Boucher said the United States is calling for a timetable leading to the full restoration of democracy in the Southeast Asian state, and said the release of the NLD figures would be a vital part of that as well.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her democracy campaign in Burma, has been under detention and scores of other party members jailed since her motorcade was attacked by a pro-government mob outside the capital, Rangoon, last May.

She has been under various forms of detention for most of the time since her party overwhelmingly won national elections in 1990, but was prevented by the military from taking office.

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