Myanmar 60th independence year comes with faint promise of democracy

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Bangkok, Jan 4 (UNI) Myanmar's military regime marked 60 years of independence from British colonial rule today asserting ''it would usher in democracy at its own pace''.

In a message read out on the occasion, Senior Gen Than Shwe, who heads the ruling junta known as the State Peace and Development Council, sought public cooperation in building a ''discipline-flourishing democratic state''.

At the official ceremony held in the new capital Naypyitaw, 400 km north of Yangon, the country's top military ruler asserted that democracy was being re-introduced according to a seven-step road map now in its third stage.

A constitution was now being drafted, which would be put to vote in a national referendum. Work on the charter began in December last year, after a national convention ended 14 years of deliberations in September 2007.

Critics have slammed the national convention as a sham designed to retain the military's hold on government.

In a parallel independence day observance in Yangon, the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, urged the military rulers to hold meaningful political talks with pro-democracy groups.

The NLD swept the country's last parliamentary election in 1990 which the military rulers refused to accept. At the NLD ceremony today, party members reportedly shouted slogans demanding her freedom.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been under continuous military rule since 1962.

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