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New constitution looms; military fo

Subject: New constitution looms; military focuses on dissident

Subject: New constitution looms; military focuses on dissident
Date: Thursday, January 18, 1994

	RANGOON (UPI) -- Delegates to a national convention met Tuesday to
finish a new constitution that is supposed to prepare the way for an
elected legislature, but which will also reconfirm the military as the
ultimate authority in the country.
	The 1-year-old national convention, meeting after a four-month
recess, is expected to spend the next few months discussing technical
details of the proposed new charter before passing it for approval to a
commission appointed by the military government, officials said.
	They said the commission will also decide whether to put the
constitution to a referendum.
	Diplomats said they believe the military government is under pressure
to complete the process by May, when the four-year terms of elected
delegates at the convention will have expired, and before July, when
Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi should be released under current
Burmese law.
	``Suu Kyi is occupying the minds of the (government) rather more than
the convention,'' said a diplomat. ``They've got things in the country
pretty much stitched up, but they can't shift international attention
away from Suu Kyi.''
	The military government, called the State Law and Order Restoration
Council, or SLORC, last September approved the ``basic principles'' of
the new constitution, which will allow for ``genuine multi-party
democracy'' but will also give the military a ``leading role'' in
national politics.
	The basic principles also state that a national president is to be
chosen, not by Parliament, but by an electoral college, and that the
armed forces will have the right to take over in times of national
	Pro-democracy and insurgent groups have denounced the proposed new
constitution as an attempt by SLORC to gain international approval while
maintaining its control over the country.
	Diplomats have compared the proposed system of government to that of
Indonesia, and say SLORC has received advise from Jakarta. SLORC has
already set up what many see as its equivalent of Indonesia's ruling
mass Golkar Party, the United Solidarity Development Association. 
	Diplomats say the USDA, a mass movement announced in September, is a
civilian front for the military and could later be turned into a
political party to contest elections. They said civil servants are
encouraged to join to further their careers.
	The USDA is also seen as a successor to the military-backed National
Unity Party, which lost the May 1990 election by a landslide to Suu
Kyi's National League for Democracy.
	SLORC has refused to allow the elected Parliament to take power until
the new constitution is adopted, and has detained scores of legislators
and deregistered numerous political parties.
	The more than 700 delegates to the convention include more than 100
members who were elected to Parliament in the 1990 poll.
	Analysts say SLORC would like to conclude the convention by May, by
which time the delegates elected in 1990 will have completed their four-
year terms, and a new election would have to be held if the convention
is to continue.
	``It's hard to see the convention being wrapped up in six months as
the SLORC wants,'' said one diplomat.
	But he said SLORC may have another motive for speeding up work on the
constitution. Suu Kyi on July 20 will have completed five years under
house arrest, the maximum time authorities can hold a person without
trial under current law.
	Changing the law to extend her detention could bring further
international condemnation, but her release in Rangoon could spark an
uprising against SLORC.
	``SLORC knows the pressure is on them to release her and that there
is no easy way around it,'' the diplomat said. ``If they could get the
convention over by July, it might be easier to release her by then.''
	SLORC took power in 1988 and then brutally crushed a pro-democracy
uprising led by Suu Kyi, who was detained a year later for alleged