Myanmar’s Military Lawmakers Refuse to Give up Veto Power

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A Myanmar woman placing her signature on a petition calling for amendment to the constitution near the opposition National League for Democracy party's head office in Yangon, May 27, 2014.
A Myanmar woman placing her signature on a petition calling for amendment to the constitution near the opposition National League for Democracy party's head office in Yangon, May 27, 2014.

Myanmar’s powerful military is against any proposed changes to the constitution that will take away its veto power over all future amendments to the charter, according to a parliamentary panel tasked with reviewing the country’s military-written constitution.

The 31-member committee, which formed in February to report on constitutional amendments to parliament, submitted its final report to the legislature on Tuesday, containing proposals from all political parties, civilian organizations, and the military.

Parliament will discuss the points raised by the report, including Article 436 of the constitution, which allows effective veto power by Myanmar’s military over proposed constitutional changes.

Article 436 effectively gives the military, which controls 25 percent of seats in parliament, a veto over constitutional amendments, since it requires more than 75 percent of parliamentary representatives to approve any change.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that getting rid of the military’s veto is the first step needed to pave the way for other charter amendments.

San Pyi, the committee’s joint secretary, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the military has defended the contentious provision.

“The military representatives of parliament proposed that this should be maintained in its original form,” he said.

Conditional approval

San Pyi also said that Myanmar’s ruling Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) gave conditional approval to amending Article 436.

The USDP said that as the party moves to implement democratic reforms, any “improvements” to the constitution “must be made in consideration of the important roles played by the people and the people’s representatives and in accordance with the timelines of the situation,” according to San Pyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has called for an amendment to Article 436, proposing that all future constitutional amendments be approved by two-thirds of elected lawmakers or more than half of all lawmakers, said Aung Kyi Nyunt, an NLD lawmaker.

Following that, the NLD wants a referendum to be held in stages where more than half of those eligible to vote would have to approve the amendments.

The NLD, with the 88 Generation students group, had collected nearly 5 million signatures during a campaign from May 27 to July 19, calling for an end to the military’s veto power on amendments to the constitution, just before the committee submitted its preliminary report.  

Article 59(F)

The USDP also indicated that when the right time came, it would consider amendments to the controversial Article 59(F), which prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because her two sons are not Myanmar citizens.

The NLD has called for the removal of this section, arguing that no such restrictions existed under the previous constitutions of 1947 and 1974, Aung Kyi Nyunt told RFA.

The NLD is eager to see the passage of an amendment to Article 59(F) before the next general elections take place, which could propel Aung San Suu Kyi into office.

Electoral officials said Tuesday that they had provisionally scheduled the elections for the final week of October or first week of November 2015.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Soe Thinn. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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