07/01/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Yangon, police and students clash over military’s no to Aung San Suu Kyi

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Hundreds of ordinary citizens joined students in protests. Riot police intervened giving rise to clashes. Protesters want military out of Parliament and amendments to the Constitution. Catholic activist alongside Aung San Suu Kyi for a real democratic change in Myanmar.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - An angry crowd clashed with police yesterday afternoon in downtown Yangon in a rare street protest in Myanmar, the nation led for decades by a strict military dictatorship which in 2011 and engaged in a difficult process of democratic transition .

Ordinary citizens demonstrated against the vote in Parliament last week, which enshrined the continued application of the army veto on constitutional reforms. The decision has as a direct consequence on the exclusion of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidential election because of a norm contra personam contained within the Charter.

The protest was organized by a group of students - along with monks promoters of the largest demonstrations in Myanmar, more bloodily suppressed by the army – who were gradually joined by hundreds of citizens. The demonstrators called for the cancellation of 25% of the seats in Parliament reserved by law to the military; a law which, combined with the 75% of the votes of deputies and senators needed to amend the Constitution, effectively blocks any truly democratic reform in the country.

The students and citizens were faced with policemen in riot gear, armed with shields and batons. The demonstrators repeatedly chanted the slogan "Twenty five percent in parliament -- Get out! Get out", referring directly to the military, and then added:" We want to change the Constitution. "

The police intervened giving rise to the clash, although so far there have been no confirmations of arrests or injured after the scuffles.

At the center of the dispute the notorious Article 59 of the Constitution of Myanmar, a provision drafted and tailored to stop Aung San Suu Kyi, given that it bans a Burmese citizen from running for president if he or she has foreign children (hers are British, as was her deceased husband). In recent months, the leader of the National League for Democracy - the main opposition party and likely winner in a vote which is due to take place between October and November - had tied the "honest change" to a democratic change in Myanmar's constitution.

In recent months, at least five million people, representing 10% of the population, signed a petition sponsored by the National League for Democracy (NLD) asking to amend Article. 436 of the Constitution; it provides 75% of the votes for any changes made to the Charter and assigns all power to the military.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the Catholic activist Sawthuya Bosco, president of the National Catholic Youth Commission of Myanmar (Ncycm), speaks of  a"feeling of an artificial democracy" when it comes to "decision-making in Parliament." He says he's not surprised by the vote last week, because the democratic transition process and many of the changes that have occurred so far are just a facade.

As for Aung San Suu Kyi, he warns, "we continue to believe in her, because she is the only one that can create a true democracy and give peace to our country, Myanmar." "For this reason - he concludes - we are united with her and continue to fight for democracy and justice in Myanmar with her."

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