Human rights groups have joined Washington in calling for the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest so she can participate in the constitutional convention proposed by Burma's military government.
Human rights groups say the proposed convention will fail unless Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy colleagues fully participate.
Earlier, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that for any constitutional convention to succeed, political opponents must support it and be involved in preparations.
Tuesday, Burma's military government announced plans to hold the convention on May 17th to draft a new constitution. It did not say who will be invited.
This would be the first step in the so-called "road map to democracy" unveiled by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt last August. At the time, he promised a new constitution would clear the way for an elected government.
Meanwhile, Thailand gave its backing to Burma's convention, calling it a positive step toward democracy. Bangkok is sponsoring a separate international forum next month aimed at restarting political reforms in Burma.
Information for this report is provided by AP.