09/04/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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National convention ends after 14 years

Opened in 1993 the convention was supposed to be the first step on the roadmap to democracy, laying down basic guidelines to draft a new constitution. Human rights activists and opposition members warn it is a ruse to allow the military to hang onto power.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s National Convention, convened to formulate basic guidelines to draft the country’s constitution, has finally come to a close after 14 years. Held in Hmawbi Township, it was supposed to be the first in a seven-stage process on the “road map to democracy” established by the military regime that has ruled the country for more than 40 years.

Critics have raised doubts about the junta’s real intentions towards democracy. For them the whole thing is a sham whose only purpose is to prolong military rule

The reform process that began in 1993 is ostensibly meant to lead to multiparty elections. But thus far no timetable has been set for the next stages in the roadmap.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) has boycotted the process since 1996. Its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is still under house arrest. When her party won an election in 1990 the military government prevented her from forming a government.

For human rights activists and NLD members the National Convention process was nothing but a ruse by the military to stay in power.

In fact the basic guidelines agreed to during the convention grant the military a dominant role in the political life of the country. For instance, the armed forces are guaranteed 25 per cent of the 440-seat new assembly. Key ministries will also remain under military control.

The head of the armed forces would also be given the power to declare a state of emergency without government approval. He could also dismiss democratically-elected governments and dissolve parliament should they try to amend or enact a law against the will of the military

From Thailand, Burmese dissidents warn that such a “regimented democracy” is a time bomb. People in Myanmar are tired of the situation. The latest protests against inflation, which took guts to pull off, are a clear signal of what the future might have in store.

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