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Suspended talks dash hopes for reform: Analysts

Suspension of Myanmar's constitutional talks deepen global frustration at the lack of democratic reform, analysts said.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 15:58 IST

The latest suspension of Myanmar's constitutional talks dashes any hope of ending the process this year and is likely to deepen international frustration at the lack of democratic reform, analysts said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday the ruling junta adjourned the latest session of its National Convention until the end of the year but gave no exact date for when talks among its 1,000 handpicked delegates would resume.

"I don't think that the National Convention will end in the next session," said one delegate, Tin Tun Maung, a former member of the pro-democracy opposition who attended the talks as an independent.

The generals say the talks on drawing up a new constitution are the first step on their "road map" to democracy in a nation ruled by the military since 1962.

The sputtering process began more than a decade ago and has achieved few tangible results.

The latest rounds have been internationally condemned for failing to include the opposition National League for Democracy, which is boycotting the convention to demand the release of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The postponement on Tuesday came amid mounting international pressure for the junta to deliver on long-promised democratic reforms.

Myanmar was among a short list of nations named by US President George W Bush in his State of the Union address on Wednesday as part of the world that still needs "freedom".

A western diplomat in Yangon said the delay means the constitutional project could not end before 2007. "This is long.

They have chosen to buy time," the diplomat told the agency.

He said the junta might have slowed down the process because the generals have yet to resolve "sensitive" issues like possible elections, the role of political parties and the special powers of the military.

A military observer in Yangon warned that regardless of the outcome of the talks, the junta would maintain its central role.

"In any future political equation, the military must be included as a constant factor," the analyst said. "Everything else can change."

Sunai Phasuk, a Human Rights Watch consultant on Myanmar, said the junta might have adjourned the talks because of disputes within the military about how to proceed.

"Although the draft constitution gives the generals control over all levels of the new executive and administrative structure, they could feel that tensions are building up within the (junta) as well as between the military and the rest of society," Sunai told the agency in Bangkok.

"They fear the possibility of a domino impact, similar to what happened in Indonesia, which would lead to either a coup or democratic uprising (that could) start a chain reaction and take away their power," he added.

But the delay was likely to upset the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which admitted Myanmar in 1997, one pro-democracy group said.

Myanmar agreed in December to allow Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar to visit the country as an ASEAN envoy to check on the progress toward democracy.