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Myanmar's final constitution drafting session from July

The final session of its 15-year-old National Convention which will draft the new constitution and pave the way for a general election, will be launched on July 18.

world Updated: Jun 06, 2007 11:46 IST

Myanmar's final session of its 15-year-old National Convention, the military-appointed forum the task of which is to draft a new constitution and pave the way for a general election, will be launched on July 18.

The convention will be held at the Nyaunghnapin Camp on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar's former capital, the same venue used for the four previous sessions of the glacially slow constitution drafting process, state-run newspapers said on Wednesday.

The last session, held from October 10, 2006 to December 29, 2006, hashed out details and basic principles for the constitution's chapters on the parliament, the role of the military in politics and the rights and duties of citizens.

"At the final stage of the National Convention, delegates will have to make some amendments, additions and nullification to some of the points after thoroughly reviewing all the adopted fundamental principles and detailed basic principles to ensure that the Constitution is free from flaws and weaknesses, in addition to adopting the detailed basic principles of the remaining seven chapters," reported The New Light of Myanmar.

The National Convention is the ruling junta's answer to international and local demands for democracy. After completing a new constitution, the military will stage a national referendum on the new charter and thereafter has promised to hold a general election.

Many question the fairness of the government's National Convention process, initiated by the military in 1992 in the aftermath of the 1990 general election won by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar pro-democracy activists have opposed the National Convention on the grounds that the process is being conducted by non-elected members under the direction of the military, and has excluded representatives from the elected NLD party.

The NLD won more than 80 per cent of the contested seats in the 1990 polls but the Myanmar military hierarchy, then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), refused to pass power over to the elected politicians on the grounds that the country, plagued by various insurgencies, needed to draft a new constitution to address the ethnic minority issues first.

The convention stalled in 1995 after the NLD representatives walked out, claiming the process was a "sham" designed to keep the military in power.

Amid mounting international pressure for some show of political reform, the military restarted the national convention process in 2004.

The constitution drafting process is being conducted by 1,088 delegates, of whom 633 are representatives of Myanmar's various ethnic groups, 29 from political parties, 15 elected politicians, 93 "peasants," 48 "workers," 56 "intellectuals and intelligentsia," 109 state officials and 105 "other suitable invited persons."

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