Myanmar announces commission to draft constitution

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YANGON, Oct 18 (Reuters) Army-ruled Myanmar announced a commission today to draft a new constitution as part of its ''roadmap to democracy'' derided by critics as a sham to keep the generals in power.

State-owned MRTV said Chief Justice U Aung Toe would chair the 54-member commission -- which includes civil servants and military officers -- but gave no timeframe for completing its work.

Stage one of the roadmap -- a National Convention to draw up the ''detailed basic principles'' of the charter -- finished in September after 14 years of on-off meetings, most of which were boycotted by Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Yangon since her latest detention began in 2003. Her party won a massive election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the army, which first seized power in 1962.

Most Western governments dismissed the convention as a sham to cement the generals' grip on power.

''Drafting the constitution is just rewriting the adopted principles in formal legal terms,'' one Yangon analyst told Reuters.

Snippets of the ''detailed basic principles'' of the charter appearing in state media point to little transfer of power to a civilian administration or autonomy for the former Burma's 100-plus ethnic minorities.

The commander-in-chief of the army will be the most powerful man in the country under the constitutional guidelines agreed at the National Convention, with the power to appoint the ministers of defence, interior and border affairs.

He will also be able to assume power ''in times of emergency''.

REUTERS RSA RN2158

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