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US Says Burma's Constitutional Convention Illegitimate - 2004-05-22


The White House says Burma's constitutional convention run by the country's military junta lacks legitimacy and says it will extend sanctions against the country for a year.

In a statement Friday, the White House said Rangoon's convention has not allowed for substantive dialogue nor the full participation of all political groups.

It said the Burmese junta has failed to make progress towards democracy and national reconciliation in the face of growing criticism from Burma's neighbors and the international community.

The White House statement also called on the Burmese military to release all political prisoners, including National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who U.S. officials noted was conspicuously absent from the meeting.

The National League for Democracy chose to boycott the meeting after the military refused to release Aung San Suu Kyi. Foreign diplomats and human rights organizations have dismissed the gathering as a sham. Most of the delegates to the convention were hand-picked.

Meanwhile delegates at the convention outside of Rangoon have received a strict set of principles regarding conduct laid down by the military government. The government has advised delegates not to express disloyalty to the state, discuss topics outside the official agenda, or walk out on the proceedings.

The code of conduct also dictates that delegates dress appropriately, refrain from taking baths at unreasonable times, and avoid eating junk food. State-run media say the delegates were told the rules are not meant for repression, but in the interest of everyone.

The convention is meant as a first step to what Burma's military says is an eventual transformation to democracy.

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