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Myanmar constitutional talks to resume in October

But the party of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to be excluded from them, Myanmar's envoy to Manila said.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2006 11:52 IST

Talks to draft a new Constitution for military-ruled Myanmar will resume in October but the party of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to be excluded from them, Myanmar's ambassador to the Philippines said on Tuesday.

Thaung Tun said the effort, which was adjourned in late January, was "75 per cent complete" with the power-sharing provisions between the central government and the states still to be worked out.

Despite the constitutional talks, he said the armed forces would retain a significant role, similar to that of early, post-colonial Indonesia.

The military, which depicts the talks as the third of a seven-step process towards democracy, has ruled the nation since 1962.

The talks have been held sporadically for more than a decade but have been condemned internationally for failing to include Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

The opposition leader is under house arrest and has been in one form of detention or another for most of the past 17 years. The NLD won national elections in 1990 but the junta refused to step down.

The NLD has boycotted the talks to demand the release of its leader and of other political prisoners.

"After the rains is a good time," the envoy told the Foreign Correspondents Association when asked when the constitutional talks would resume. "The rains for us end in October this year."

The diplomat said that at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cebu in the central Philippines in mid-December "the authorities would be in a position to tell you" when the constitutional talks will be completed.

He said a key outstanding issue is "power-sharing between the centre and the states," which could nevertheless be "wrapped up in one or two sessions."

Thaung Tun said that because the NLD had walked out after being invited twice to previous sessions of the talks, it was "unlikely" to take part in future sessions.

"As far as the government is concerned we can only go so far," he said.

He said the Myanmar military is amply represented in the constitutional talks because "they want to ensure for them a role" after the democratic transition.

"If you look at Indonesia in the beginning (they had) 30 per cent of the parliament," he said.

"I don't know the percentage being talked about but the (Myanmar) military would want to ensure they have a fair representation in the parliament."

He said that once the talks are completed the Constitution would be drafted by "legal people. They already have a draft and they can move very fast."

First Published: Aug 15, 2006 11:52 IST