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Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 16:00 UK

New Burma constitution published

Burma opposition members, 27/03
Burma's opposition has mounted a vote "no" to the constitution campaign

Burma's military rulers have published their proposed new constitution, which critics say will cement their grip on power and weaken the opposition.

The 194-page document has gone on sale at government bookshops at a cost of 1,000 kyat ($1; 50p) a copy.

The junta says it will put the document to a national referendum on 10 May.

The charter was drafted by the generals without input from the pro-democracy opposition, and bans opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office.

Seats for military

On Wednesday the junta announced it would seek approval for the document in a national poll on 10 May, and that 50% of voters need to approve the constitution for it to become law.

The junta has also pledged to hold multi-party elections by 2010.

Senior General Than Shwe (R), file image
General Than Shwe and his colleagues rule the country with an iron fist

But the Irrawaddy website, which is critical of the junta, says the new rules enshrine the military's dominance of the political system.

Even if there are elections, the site says 56 military officers are guaranteed places in the 224-member lower house of parliament.

And 110 seats out of 440 in the upper house are reserved for the military.

A clause which bars anyone who has been married to a foreign national from holding political office is also drawing criticism.

Ms Suu Kyi, the main opposition leader, was married to a British academic and is therefore disqualified.

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in the country's last elections in 1990 - though the military never allowed them to form a government.

The NLD has mounted a campaign to persuade Burmese to vote "no" to the constitution in the forthcoming referendum.


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