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US slams Myanmar constitution talks

[JURIST] On a visit to Sydney, Australia to attend the 2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit [official website], US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that it was "inexcusable" for the recently-concluded constitutional convention in Myanmar to have excluded opposition party National League for Democracy [Wikipedia backgrounder]. US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said [transcript] earlier that the constitutional talks were counter to the establishment of democracy and called upon Myanmar's military junta to release hundreds of detained activists who oppose the government. Casey added:

I think our simplest response to it is we view it as a total sham. The delegates to this convention were hand-picked by the regime. They haven't been allowed to engage in any open debate. And of course, they also excluded the National League for Democracy, which is Burma's largest political party...It's not at all a step toward democracy. And I think the international community and certainly the United States is going to continue to call for a genuine and real and inclusive dialogue between the regime and the legitimate forces of democracy in the country.
The reactions come after the convention issued a set of guidelines [NYT report] that, if enacted, would ensure the military regime's ongoing rule.

The constitutional convention completed its final session [JURIST reports] on Friday as international pressure increased for the government to release demonstrators [JURIST report] arrested in August for participating in a peaceful protest against a recent rise in fuel prices. It is not yet clear who will draft the actual constitution or how that process will occur, but the Myanmar government has pledged to put the resulting document to a vote in a national referendum. Myanmar has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988. Talks on a new national charter have been underway for 14 years. Bloomberg has more.

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