YANGON, Jan 31 (AFP): Myanmar's military rulers adjourned Tuesday constitutional talks until later this year, delegates said, as diplomats in Yangon questioned the junta's commitment to implementing any democratic reforms.
An ethnic leader and delegate quoted the chairman of the talks, Lieutenant General Thein Sein, as saying: "The National Convention will be resumed at the end of this year."
The delegate, who declined to be identified, speculated that Thein Sein meant December. Another delegate confirmed that the talks had adjourned, adding they would resume "by the end of the year."
Earlier, many delegates had said they believed the convention would resume in May.
The junta says the talks on drawing up a new constitution are the first step in its self-proclaimed "road map" to democracy in a nation which has been ruled by the military since 1962.
The Karen National Union, which was not invited to the talks and Tuesday celebrated the 57th anniversary of the start of its uprising against Yangon, dismissed the convention as "fake".
Diplomats in Yangon voiced disappointment over the lack of progress and questioned whether the military has any political will to introduce democracy.
"It shows the generals are not in a hurry," a Western diplomat said.
"They are slowing down (the pace of the talks) and they are not in a hurry to end the first of the seven steps of their own road map" which they introduced in 2003, the diplomat added.
"It's not good news."
Another diplomat in Yangon said: "It really raises a question whether the government has a political will to carry out democratic reforms."
The talks have been held sporadically for more than a decade but have been condemned internationally for failing to include Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
The NLD has boycotted the talks to demand the release of their leader and of other political prisoners.
Since the convention reopened on December 5, some 1,000 handpicked delegates have discussed a new constitution including rules for citizenship, elections and the military's role in government.
"If they're not reconvening until the end of the year, I don't think that'll be received well within ASEAN as it will mean they're still on their go-slow timetable," a third diplomat said.
Under pressure from the international community, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at its annual meeting in December signalled its impatience with fellow member Myanmar.
It reached agreement with Yangon to allow Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar to visit the country as an ASEAN envoy to check on the progress of democracy.
But earlier in January, the junta said it was too busy relocating its administrative capital to receive him and no new date has been set.