Lieutenant General Thein Sein, a top member of the country's junta, said on Saturday that the National Convention, which is setting guidelines for the new constitution, would resume on October 10 at Nyaung Hna Pin, about 45 km north of Yangon.

It was the first public announcement of the exact date for resuming the convention, which the junta calls its first step in a seven-stage "road map" toward democracy that is supposed to lead to free elections, though no timetable has been set to complete the task.

Thein Sein, who chairs the meeting's Convening Commission, told commission members to send invitations to the delegates on September 10, a month ahead of the resumption.

Speaking at a preparatory meeting for the National Convention at Naypyidaw, the country's new administrative capital 400 km north of Yangon, he said all delegates had to be at the meeting venue by October 7.

Constitutional vacuum

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in
detention since May 2003

Myanmar has been without a constitution since 1988, when the existing 1974 charter was suspended after the military violently suppressed mass pro-democracy protests.

The junta first convened the National Convention in 1993; but its work was aborted in 1996 after delegates belonging to Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party walked out in protest, claiming that the military was manipulating the proceedings.

The convention was resurrected in 2004, though Suu Kyi's party continued not to take part. The NLD won a landslide victory in a 1990 general election, but the military refused to hand over power, claiming it had to first write a new constitution.

The party and its members have faced constant harassment and Suu Kyi has been in detention since May 2003. The junta's refusal to release her was one reason the party boycotted the resumed meeting.