Myanmar’s Ruling Party Submits Draft Bill to Permit Charter Reform

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Myanmar lawmakers attend a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, Aug. 16, 2013.
Myanmar lawmakers attend a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, Aug. 16, 2013.

Myanmar’s ruling Union party on Wednesday submitted to parliament a bill that would allow lawmakers to proceed with amending a draft law on constitution reform in the run-up to general elections later this year.

“I am submitting this proposal to be able to amend the draft law in accordance with sections 433, 434, 435 and 436,” said Thein Zaw, joint-secretary of the Union party.  

The sections call for amendments the constitution to be submitted in the form of the bill to the Union parliament which will discuss the bill only if 20 percent of Union lawmakers agree to do so.

The Union party included in the draft bill a change that would require no less than 70 percent of lawmakers, instead of 75 percent, to amend the constitution, he said.

The party also included a change for the appointment of state and division chief-ministers so that they would be selected by members of parliament rather than directly appointed by the president, he said.

Once lawmakers accept the draft bill, they will proceed with amendments to the current constitution enacted in 2008 when a military junta ruled the country.

Myanmar’s major political players, including President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD), held six-party talks on constitutional reform in May.

It is widely believed that the NLD will win the general elections scheduled for November.

Aung San Suu Kyi wants amendments to the constitution to curb the political power of the military, which controls a quarter of the seats in parliament through appointment and holds an effective veto over proposed charter reform, and to change provisions that make her ineligible for the country’s presidency because her sons have foreign citizenship.

Call for pre-election stability

On Wednesday, Thein Sein urged stability before the general elections during a meeting with government officials in Taunggyi, capital of eastern Myanmar’s Shan state.

“Everybody, not only in the country but also the international community, will be watching our election to see if it is fair and free or not,” he said. “We all have a responsibility to uphold a fair and free election, and we all need to assist with promoting stability before the election.”

Thein Sein also said the government would help the election commission conduct a free and fair election.

The president met with local businessmen and leaders from the Pa-O National Organization (PNO), a political group of the Pa-O ethnic minority group which has been granted various business concessions in southern Shan state, to discuss business development and protecting Inle Lake, the country’s second-largest lake.

But locals who wanted to talk to Thein Sein about land grabs said they were unable to meet with him.

“I wanted to tell the president that 14 acres of our land were confiscated,” said Aung Kyaw Myo, a farmer who lost land to a hotel project zone. “My parents are over 80, and they are sick. We have to use the money for their health. We don’t have many job opportunities in the region, and we have three students. We have to struggle a lot because we have lost land.”

Reported by Win Naung Toe, Win Ko Ko Lat, Khun Yazar and Wai Mar Tun of RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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