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Burma Invites Opposition to Constitutional Convention - 2004-04-03


Burma's military junta will invite the pro-democracy opposition party to take part in a constitutional convention next month, but says it is too early to say when party leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be released from house arrest.

Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung made the announcement in an interview with Japan's NHK television network and Thailand's I-TV channel soon after arriving in Bangkok today (Saturday) for talks with Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Win Aung said Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy will be invited to attend the National Convention, which will begin drafting a new constitution on May 17th.

Mr. Win Aung said everyone who attended the previous National Convention, including the NLD, will be invited.

He said it is too early to set an exact date for when Aung San Suu Kyi would be released.

Burma does not have a constitution. The military rulers first organized a National Convention to draft one in 1993, but suspended it in 1996 after the NLD walked out, saying it was being forced to rubber-stamp the junta's decisions.

The National Convention is the first step in a "road map" the government has announced it will follow to establish democracy in the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, was placed under house arrest in July of 1981 for six years. After being freed in 1995, her movements were still restricted, but she regularly denounced the government.

Burma does not have a constitution. The military rulers first organized a National Convention to draft a charter in 1993, but suspended it in 1996 after the NLD walked out, saying it was being forced to rubber-stamp the junta's decisions.

Restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi's movements since 1995 have not prevented her from regularly denouncing the junta. She discourages tourists from visiting Burma and businessmen from investing in the impoverished country until it is free.

The pro-democracy leader has been either in detention or under house arrest since last May, when a pro-government mob attacked her supporters in northern Burma.

The junta has faced severe international criticism for detaining her and other opposition members, and for cracking down on the democracy movement.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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