[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 07:44 GMT
Burma constitutional talks resume
Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest
Burma has reopened constitutional talks amid criticism that the gathering of more than 1,000 delegates is unrepresentative.

The main opposition group is absent from the meeting. Its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest.

Burma's ruling junta has hailed the talks process, under the remit of its National Convention, as an important step towards democracy.

But outside Burma, few are convinced of the process' legitimacy.

Both the United States and the European Union have criticised the military government for failing to create the conditions for the main opposition party to participate.

The National League for Democracy has refused to attend the talks because of Rangoon's refusal to release Aung San Suu Kyi.

The largest party representing the Shan minority group, the Shan National League for Democracy, is also boycotting the meeting. Prior to the reconvening of the meeting, the group's chairman was arrested, together with other leaders of the Shan community.

It is thought the regime wants to hold a constitutional referendum before it takes over the chairmanship of Asean (Association of South East Nations) next year.

At this session delegates to the national convention are meant to draw up the basic principles of sharing legislative power.

International pressure

The so-called National Convention was started in 1993, with the aim of drawing up a constitution as a first step in a seven-point plan towards the restoration of democracy.

It last convened, behind closed-doors, in May 2004.

Most of the 1,074 delegates who convened on Thursday have been hand-picked by the junta.

Burma will be under intense pressure from the international community to produce evidence that it is improving human rights inside the country. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the MLD, has spent nine of the past 15 years under some form of detention.

She has repeatedly said she would be willing to be the last person to be released in order to see all of the other estimated 1,300 political detainees freed.

Her party won a landslide victory in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern by the military.

Burma has not had a constitution since the junta seized power in 1988.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific