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Followers of pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi stage protest to call for Myanmar reform
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    YANGON, Myanmar — Supporters of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi protested Tuesday to demand democracy in Myanmar, days after the military regime said it would hold elections in 2010 under a new constitution likely to entrench the junta’s powerful position.
    Some two dozen members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, shadowed by plainclothes police, gathered peacefully outside the party’s headquarters to complain that the junta’s moves toward democracy are insufficient. It was a rare display of public displeasure in the tightly controlled country.
    Last week, the regime said that a general election would be held in 2010 after a referendum this May to approve a constitution written under the guidance of the junta and ensuring the military a major future role.
    It was the first time the government has set dates for specific steps in its so-called road map to democracy, which has been widely criticized for failing to include any input from Suu Kyi’s party.
    Human rights groups have already denounced the referendum and election announced Saturday, saying they would merely prolong and institutionalize the military’s role as the country’s key power broker.
    The National League for Democracy has charged that the junta was trying to draft a constitution unilaterally, and it therefore ‘‘could not be expected to guarantee democracy, human rights and public well-being.’’
    The international community has increased pressure on the junta to hasten political reform after it violently quashed peaceful mass protests last September — killing at least 31 people, according to a U.N. estimate. Thousands were detained.
    The military junta, which seized power in 1988, held elections two years later but rejected the sweeping victory of Suu Kyi’s party and began a systematic suppression of pro-democracy forces.
    Tuesday’s protest was watched by about 50 plainclothes policemen who photographed and videotaped the demonstrators. The protesters carried banners reading, ‘‘Where are the 1990 election results?’’ and ‘‘What is the 1990 election?’’
    Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been in prison or under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years.
    In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged the junta to hold substantive talks with Suu Kyi without delay to ensure that the constitution it plans to put to the referendum represents all citizens.
    Ban made clear that the United Nations remains highly critical of the constitution-drafting process.
    A clause in the draft guidelines for the constitution guarantees the military 25 percent of the seats in the country’s parliament, with the representatives nominated by the commander-in-chief.
    The new constitution also disqualifies presidential candidates who are ‘‘entitled to the rights and privileges of a ... foreign country’’ — thereby barring Suu Kyi, whose late husband was British.
    Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962 and has not had a constitution since the last one was scrapped in 1988, when the army brutally put down earlier pro-democracy demonstrations and the current junta took power.

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