01/30/2019, 15.39
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Myanmar government seeking changes to the military-drafted Constitution

The Armed Forces’ hold on the country’s political institutions remains a serious issue. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party wants to set up a joint committee of parliament to tackle it. A motion to that effect was adopted two years after the assassination of Ko Ni, a constitutional consultant for Suu Kyi’s party.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s parliament has given the green light to discuss a proposal to set up a committee to reform the country’s military-drafted constitution.

National League for Democracy (NLD) Upper House Member U Aung Kyi Nyunt submitted a proposal on Tuesday to form a joint committee of the two houses of parliament to work on amending the 2008 charter. The unelected military representatives (pictured) are unanimously opposed.

Constitutional reform is a key part of the platform of the NLD-led government, together with the promotion of the rule of law and the end of armed conflict in the country.

The proposal to set up a joint committee is the first official step undertaken by the NLD in that direction since it took office in 2016.

Modifying the charter to remove the armed forces from parliament is one of the most serious issues afflicting the country, which for the past few years has been trying to emerge from almost half a century of harsh military rule.

The debate on constitutional reform was put on hold in 2017 following the murder of Ko Ni, a lawyer and constitutional consultant for the NLD. It is no coincident that yesterday was the second anniversary of his death.

The 2008 Constitution prevents NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because it bans candidates with a foreign spouse or child. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her two children.

The military also set aside for itself a quarter of all seats in the 440-member lower house (House of Representatives) and 56 in the 226-seat upper house (House of Nationalities) as well as several important ministries, like Defence, Interior and Border Affairs, giving it a de facto veto on constitutional change and control over security issues.

At present, Suu Kyi’s party holds 58 per cent of all seats, whilst changing the Constitution requires a 76 per cent majority.

During yesterday's joint session of parliament, before a secret ballot was called on whether to debate the proposal, tensions between 150 military legislators and the speaker U T Khun Myat was palpable.

General Maung Maung complained that the creation of the committee was in breach of established procedures, noting that the parliamentarians should not resort to deceit.

When U T Khun Myat rejected the complaint, all the military stood up, which is their usual way of showing displeasure towards NLD motions.

Among those present, the motion received 394 “yes” votes, 17 “no” votes and three abstentions. Those who boycotted were likely military lawmakers and their allies in the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The debate on forming the committee is scheduled for early next month.

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