Myanmar Parliament Committee: Keep Main Points of Constitution

Burma Parliament Committee: Keep Main Points of Constitution

Myanmar, Burma, Parliament, Constitution, Aung San Suu Kyi, reforms, Union Solidarity and Development Party, ethnic, federal army

Staff sell copies of Burma’s Constitution at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyidaw in 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — The Constitutional Review Joint Committee in Burma’s Parliament has put forward proposed draft amendments to the 2008 military-written charter, with no changes to articles that currently bar Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency and guarantee the military a key role in politics.

However, the 109-member committee—with representatives from the opposition and ruling parties, as well as the military—has recommended changes to allow greater power sharing between the government and ethnic groups, according to a report published Friday.

The committee’s report recommended no change to Article 59F, which says a president may not have a spouse or children who are foreign nationals. Suu Kyi, who chairs the National League for Democracy (NLD), has two sons with British citizenship.

According to the committee’s proposed draft amendments, there would be no change to an article that reserves 25 percent of seats in Parliament for the military, or to an article that requires approval from more than 75 percent of lawmakers for constitutional amendments.

The committee also proposed to retain a chapter of the Constitution that grants immunity for members of the former regime who committed crimes while carrying out their duties.

However, it did recommend changes that would allow greater power sharing between the government and ethnic groups, as both sides negotiate ceasefires and peace agreements. Ethnic groups have been fighting for decades for the right to elect their own state governments and to have more control over natural resources.

But the committee proposed no amendment to a chapter which says all armed forces in the country should fall under the command of the government’s defense services. This chapter is controversial because ethnic groups have called for a “federal army,” with a decentralized command structure and battalions in certain regions comprised largely of soldiers from the dominant resident ethnic group.

The Constitution was written by the former military regime and passed in a referendum in 2008 that was widely seen as a sham. Since President Thein Sein’s government came to power in 2011, opposition parties and ethnic groups have campaigned for sweeping changes to the document, while others have called for an opportunity to completely rewrite it.

The Constitutional Review Joint Committee formed in July and was tasked with taking input from a wide range of stakeholders on whether—and in what ways—to amend the Constitution.

The report Friday said over 100,000 people did not support changes to the above mentioned articles and chapters. By comparison, it said only 592 people wanted to amend the article that makes Suu Kyi ineligible for the presidency.

These figures stand in contrast to results of opinion polls conducted by Suu Kyi’s NLD party last year, which showed that tens of thousands of supporters supported amendments or a complete rewrite of the Constitution.

“It is a little strange to see that 106,102 people did not want to change articles, including 59F,” Pe Than, a lawmaker from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), told The Irrawaddy. He is not a member of the committee.

“The army and the USDP did not want to hurt the Constitution,” he said, referring to the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. “I believe this is why 106,102 people did not want to change the main points in the Constitution.”

“If it is possible, we want to change the section so Aung San Suu Kyi can be president, because it would be good to have a democratic system,” he added.

He said lawmakers would continue to discuss the draft amendments in Parliament.

Regarding proposed changes to Chapters 1-5 that would allow greater power sharing with ethnic groups, he said he believed the government’s ceasefire negotiations played a role.

“It seems they made it a priority to have peace with ethnic groups by doing this,” he said.

Win Tin, a veteran journalist and co-founder of the NLD, said he was not caught off guard by the parliamentary committee’s proposals.

“I was not surprised that they did not amend any of the points we wanted to amend. I anticipated this already, and that’s why I was against my party’s stance to amend the Constitution,” he said. He had called instead to scrap the charter and complete rewrite it. “I was the only person who was against amendments because I knew they would only amend unimportant points.”

Khun Okkar, joint secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a major alliance of ethnic armed groups, said he was disappointed that the committee did not recommend changes to allow for a federal army.

“It is unacceptable for our ethnic armies to have to stay under their control. This is why we did not agree to the 2008 Constitution,” he said.

“The government is trying to get us to sign a nationwide ceasefire,” he added. “If they do not change their stance, it will be hard to have peace.”

17 Responses to Burma Parliament Committee: Keep Main Points of Constitution

  1. It is remarkable how the Burmese people have adapted to living in a dictatorship organised by lunatics.

  2. As long as presidential candidate is a citizen by birth, he or she must be allowed by the constitution to be a president. No person or persons other than the candidate must not block the rights to become a president. This law was intentionally designed just to block Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi is not my relative but this law is unjust law. I am always against this kind of unjust law. If the committee fails to bring it to the Hlutdaw floor for amendment, their job is not done for the people of Myanmar.

  3. One hundred thousand signatures were collected from NUP and USDP Members. They are not representing the majority of the people of Myanmar. 99% of the ethnics and 75% of The Myanmars want to amend this undemocratic constitution. This trick comes from USDP, and we already predicted this kind of tactic from USDP.

  4. It is not wrong to amend the constitution which bars Su Kyi to become president. However, Su Kyi must be included in the appropriate departments or bodies in restructuring process as she is a world figure and liked and inspired by the youths in the country. Her knowledge and wisdom should be neglected to nurture and open the eyes of the youths for the future development of healthy politics, socio-economy growth of the country because youths are so much fed up with the military regime. They may not want to hear that name at all. Su Kyi must be allowed to stand for the youths to buffer between government and youths’ friction. She must stay as the head of department of rule of law to establish rule of law in the country.
    On the other hand if the military does not want Su Kyi to be president, they must change their mindset not to be unlawfully powerful, to respect the people , balancing their ruthless power raised by opposition party lead by Su Kyi. Any military person with ruthless character, ego centric should not be appointed as head of the state. Those who have good understanding and mutual respect with Su Kyi should be head of the state.

  5. Surprise, surprise.

    Shwe Mann’s weasel words from article 59-f not our only priority to don’t get too greedy or it could trigger ‘political instability’ almost in the same breath.

    Of course U Win Tin, in a minority of one in the NLD, was right – all too predictable.

    Time people stopped indulging in wishful thinking.

  6. Adding injury to an insult; having the so-called constitution was an insult in itself. Now the committee coming with pathetic proposals for amending that document has become an injury. An injury that will become a running sore with no remedy in sight. Come to think of it, why on earth should we be thinking of ‘amending’ it when the very purpose of the document was to keep the military forever – to eternity thy kingdom come, thy will be done. U Win Tin must be the one with a sound mind. No reasonable man will be of the mind that amending such a carp will make it edible – only dogs will cherish excrement. While the military, in different guises, will govern the country for years by decrees and without any constitutional basis why on earth why wouldn’t we now have a governing body even as an interim one and have a constitution drafted in accordance with the aspirations of the PEOPLE and not just the military. Just because they have guns that they think they can bullieday through then it’s about time we have to change our mindset and screwed with the 2015 elections. Daw Suu shouldn’t be expecting ‘the politics of compromise’ without seeking ‘accountability’ through Truth and justice.

  7. Dear Sir,

    Re: The report Friday said over 100,000 people did not support changes to the above mentioned articles and chapters. By comparison, it said only 592 people wanted to amend the article that makes Suu Kyi ineligible for the presidency. Bases on this statement, do we know by name, group of afficliation, ethnicity, membership of party to whom is this over 100,000 person. I am concerned that these persons could be hand-pick from USDP or tadmadaw afficliated persons to signed pre-text letter.

    In fact, the NLD,and UNFC as well as other ethnic parties have one duty / task in 2014. They have to educate ‘the logic of constitution and the legal document’ that binded by the rule of law. If over per sayd, 15 millions of ethnic people do not study, discuss and debate on this legal document, the current parliament and the government will be exploting the debate of ‘federalsim, civil rights, and self-determination’ for local non-Burmese people’s State.

    The NLD, and the UNFC have to take pro-active in wider public debate in 2014 to be held community based debate, discussion forum and public meeting as 2013 that paves the way for debeate outside the parliamentary arena.

    If the may do so, the could comments line by line and text by text to the new draft in major ethnic languages that the document is not based on the aspiratiion of the entire people.

    The constitution that does not reflected the aspiration of the people is a tool of the ruling class to controled power for their own intrest, not the interest of the nation.

    According the Prof. Barnard Schwartz, New York University of Law, The American constitution was first drafted in 1787, (just about 227) year ago,’a contitution is naugh but empty words if it cannot be enforced by the courts. It is judicial review that makes constituional provisions more than mere maxims of political morality. He added, in practice, there can be no constitution without judicial review. It provides the only adequate safeguard that has been invented againt the unconstitutional legislatio. It is, in truth, the sine qu a non of the constitutioal sturcture’. Therefore, our national constittioin from 1947, 1974 and 2008 model have been lacked in the logic of the nature of the constition because the judicial review is not effective.

    In the book title, Constitutional Law, by Prof. Schwarta (1972), the American fist constitution is just over 20 pages in B4 paper (book size). However, the legal document lives with its fundamental aims on assuring ‘freedom of individual and rule of law’. Prof. sum up in the introduction note that ‘ the natioal supremacy so carefully provided by the Constitution could not maintained peacefully, unless it was associated with paramount judicial authority’.

    If our national leaders are seeking the truth and reconciliation, unity and prosperity in common discourse, the current Constitutioanl and Judicial Authority must be reformed and granted full power to exmaine the 2008 model and new recomendation that culticate ‘what went wrong’ in the first place.

    PS: A man or a woman has the rights to married any one he or she love and care regardless of race, reeligion, country of orign, and citizensip. It is a matter of citizenship laws on this regard and criterial to be elected or nomianted to be the Head of State (President) is based on the right of individual. Please check ‘ Civil rights’s charter.

    The constitution debate shall be key agenda for media, like Irrawaddy team.

    Thank for your report Sir.

  8. Western countries will only happy if ASSK can become president of Burma ( Myanmar ). They do not mind whether the constitution is amended or not, they just happy what the government says from its mouth.

    Millions of peoples in Burma are suffering under rights abuse and also democratic rights had been diminished day by day.

    This constitution is made for the sake of to hold power for ever by a group of peoples i.e. mandated by ex military chief Than Shwe.

    No future for Burma and its citizens so no choice rather than to find out ways and means before 2015 election.

  9. Since BIA days, Burma has been looted. The constitution made up by the army was an attempt to legalize the stealing The 1947/48 made up by Bogyoke Aung San & colleagues should be amended as necessary by freely elected Representatives The army that grabbed power on the 2nd of march 1961, committed high treason..PTM

  10. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “I was not surprised that they did not amend any of the points we wanted to amend. I anticipated this already, and that’s why I was against my party’s stance to amend the Constitution,” he said. He had called instead to scrap the charter and complete rewrite it. “I was the only person who was against amendments because I knew they would only amend unimportant points.” U Win Tin said.
    DITTO FOR ME as well sir!
    Of course YOU CAN’T DRIVE A CAR, manufactured and programmed to be DRIVEN BY MILITARY MEN ONLY, people!
    The Constitutional Review Joint Committee is only a MECHANISM PUT IN PLACE to PLAY A DELAYING/FEET DRAGGING GAME only on the part of Than Shwe’s clerk, Thein Sein, as obviously as well.
    Thein Sein said “a healthy Constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic and social needs of our society.”
    The military drawn constitution is in place since day with an ONLY and ULTIMATE PLOY: GUARANTEE MILITARY DOMINATION OF BURMA UNTIL ETERNITY, don’t argue man!
    AMENDING the 2008 Nargis CONSTITUTION only WOULD NOT HOLD ANY WATER for Burma’s democracy and freedom as well says U Win Tin.
    Thein Sein said “a healthy Constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic and social needs of our society.”
    This evidenced the fact Thein Sein led mob at Naypyidaw is determined to DRAG ITS FEET on AMENDING the military drafted charter and continue on its present chart/road map: MILITARY DOMINATION of BURMA until ETERNITY no less, don’t argue man?
    And that begs another interpretation as well: Than Shwe drawn military charter will be in place until 2020 and beyond as well, wanna bet?
    The committee’s report opting to neglect change of ARTICLE 59 F (sidelining Suu Kyi from assuming the president’s post if elected in the 2015 election even) and the article reserving 25% of military appointees in the parliament coupled with the requirement for more than 75% approval for constitutional amendments certainly BARES the FACT, the military drawn charter is MANUFACTURED to CATER for or HIGHLIGHT the MILITARY ROLE in the POLITICAL PICTURE of BURMA and in the PUPPET PARLIAMENT at Naypyidaw as well, don’t argue man!
    And most specifically the constitutional review committee still INSISTING on MAINTAINING the CHAPTER in the 2008 constitution, GRANTING IMMUNITY for MEMBERS of the FORMER MILITARY JUNTA FOR THEIR IMPUNITY – CRIMES COMMITTED on the PEOPLE – and specifically, the IRRELEVANT and UNSAVORY PRESENCE – in a constitution not to mention in a democratic society – of the so-dubbed NATIONAL DEFENSE and SECURITY COUNCIL where Min Aung Hlaing (China and Than Shwe chosen C-in-C of the BURMA ARMY) HOLDING SWAY in Burma and EMPOWERED (by military drawn charter of course) to REMAIN ABOVE the PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT and THE LAW as well ( most importantly BARED the UNMISTAKABLE FACT/INDICATION: ENTRENCH MILITARY SUPREMACY in BURMA until ETERNITY no less of course.
    In this view and scenario MAKING AMENDMENTS ONLY in the military dominated constitution will HOLD NO WATER much less LEND CREDENCE to or RENDER ANY OPTIMISM in our STRUGGLE for Burma’s DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM as well.

  11. No surprise that the committee should decide to amend nothing of any particular consequence, since its membership reflects the disproportionate number of military and USDP that dominate the government. The 2008 constitution was designed by the military rulers of the Union of Myanmar not to facilitate transition to a parliamentary democracy, but rather to ensure the continuation of political and fiscal control by the military and its crony connections as well as to insulate them from accountability under the law for decades of crimes against their own people.

  12. This is a sad day for Myanmar’s democracy.

  13. Maung Lu Aye ( Law ) R.A.S.U.1976

    The Military or the Quasi Govt Never Ever want Peace . They only want to Prolong the Military Dictatorship. Besides , The Dictators & The Military want to save their Own skin .
    As Hanthawaddy U Win Tin ( NLD ) had expected they do not want to amend 2008 Constitution and Article 59 (F ) which Bar DASSK as Candidate as President in 2015 because her Sons are British Citizens . And when Late Ne Win married to Kone Baung Dynasty Desendant Yatana Nat Me’ ( Who was from Australia and later wrote ” A Hundred days in Hell ” about Ne Win ) , Nobody dare to whisper or speak or criticize Similar to 2008 Constitution, 59 ( F ).
    And the Previous Regime / Than Shwe had drafted the 2008 Nargis Constitution and passed in a Referendum in 2008 that was widely seen as a Sham .
    The Constitutional Review Joint Committee proposed to retain a Chapter of the Constitution that grants Immunity for Members of the Former Regime who committed Crimes while carry out their Duty . And their Crimes were Not Ordinary, but Crimes against Humanity and they had committed beyond the Limit Excessively . They were Not really Pevent the Security of the Country , but Murderers or Butchers who killed Unarmed Peaceful Demonstators As happen in 1988 which late Dictators Ne Win & Saw Maung had Crushed the Peaceful Mass Uprising with Bullets, Not Flowers.
    The Previous Regime & Present Govt are the Same . The Military or USDP are the Same Beans from the Same Bin. They are just given Excuses, Alibis that they were doing their job because of the Above Orders, they did while carrying their duties . Those are not Sufficient Proofs ( Trying to Cover with Palm Branch while Light Striking ). You cannot expect Mercy from the Tiger .
    Quasi Thein Sein Govt should take Lessons from South Africa what Nelson Mendela and De Klerk had Meetings , Negotiations Several Times with Sincerity and finally The White South African Govt transfer the Power . Even afterward at Many of the Public Trials, the Victimizers were fairly Sentenced or Pardon . De Klerk & his Govt understand the Power of the People. Yet, Than Shwe, Thein Sein & the Generals are still holding the Power & taking to the Grave .

  14. Let Parliament debate it properly from various angles.

  15. Constitution is the heart of a country. Once constitution is unfair there can be lots of misunderstanding within the society. Burma ( Myanmar ) constitution is not democratic at all. It is one sided written to keep political power within army. No doubt army require in a country to save its peoples and sovereignty.

    If civilian powers bare empowered to army more than the requirement, the misuse of power, corruption in various forms and mismanagement will occur, at last country peoples will loose its human rights and also create ethnics problems finally it has to face with civil war.

    Therefore the present constitution Burma ( Myanmar ) shall make amendment at existing parliament before next election of 2015.

  16. considering the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of General Aung
    San, was borne Burmese and engaging herself, I think in his spirit and
    with sacrifice, excellently for her country, she does have all the right
    to run for presidency.

  17. Hi,

    This is the most important admement constitution of 2008 the republic of Union of Myanmar article to a change whoever shall be the next president desk. According to the public desire is more affordable to approve the best constitution which is 2008 constitution last 4 years ago.

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