World News

Exiled Myanmar groups seek constitution compromise

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Exiled Myanmar pro-democracy groups said Thursday they were seeking to break the political deadlock in the country by proposing an amended version of a widely condemned constitution drafted by the ruling junta.

Western governments have criticized a 2010 election set out under the junta’s constitution as a sham aimed at entrenching rule by the military, which refused to recognize the last poll in 1990, won by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

The consensus on an amended constitution came at a meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta that included representatives of the NLD and members of a government-in-exile made up of 34 members of parliament from various parties elected in 1990.

“We are putting our foot in the shoe of the military regime. Because their constitution is on the table we will look at it rather than selling our own idea,” said Bo Hla-Tint, a member of the NLD and foreign minister of the government-in-exile.

“We are trying to be practical. We are not just talking about our own vision anymore,” he said.

The new proposal calls for parts of the 2008 constitution to be dropped, including a clause allowing the military to control 25 percent of the seats in every state legislature, and for the powers of the armed forces chief to be curtailed.

Khin Ohmar, a member of the coalition behind the proposal, called on the international community to use the document as a basis to negotiate with the junta, which has previously appeared impervious to most pressures including sanctions.

“We need the U.N., we need ASEAN to use this document to talk to the regime,” Ohmar said, referring to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations. Sein Win, prime minister of the government-in-exile and a first cousin of Suu Kyi, told Reuters by telephone that his Party for National Democracy (PND) would not contest next year’s multi-party elections under current circumstances.

“As it is, we in the PND have no faith in the 2010 election and we want the international community to reject it too,” he said. “The NLD has to decide by itself if it will join but I know they have many reservations because of the constitution.”

A court in Myanmar Tuesday sentenced Suu Kyi to 18 months in detention for breaching terms of her house arrest and breaking a security law after an American swam to her lakeside home in May and stayed uninvited for two days.

The verdict, which drew condemnation from leaders around the world, will keep Suu Kyi off the political stage ahead of the elections.

Editing by Ed Davies and Dean Yates