RANGOON — Hla Swe, a central executive committee member of Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), has accused the leaders of a campaign to amend the 2008 Constitution of sowing public disorder.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the former students group 88 Generation Peace and Open Society—both of which were born out of Burma’s 1988 uprising—are conducting a nationwide campaign of rallies and petitions in an effort demonstrate public support for changing the military-drafted charter.
“Public disorder is never good,” Hla Swe told The Irrawaddy. “88 and the NLD want to cause public disorder by stimulating people to change the Constitution. They shouldn’t do that.”
Hla Swe pointed out that the demands to amend the charter have continued even after President Thein Sein promised that amendments would be made. A committee is currently considering what constitutional changes to recommend to Parliament, but although senior government figures have in principle backed changing the charter, it is not yet clear how it will be amended.
“The NLD and 88 like unrest because they come out of the ’88 uprising and they grasp that way,” he said.
The USDP lawmaker, who is also a former lieutenant major in the Burmese military, stated that under the current charter, the military can seize control of the country for up to two years if there is “upheaval,” in order to restore order.
Nan Khin Htwe Myint, an NLD central executive committee member, said that all the events in the opposition campaign have been organized with the permission of authorities, and that participants have been well behaved.
“If they [the USDP] want to talk like that, they need proof. But there is no public disorder, we are holding the events peacefully,” she said. There have so far been no reports of trouble or disturbances at the campaign’s rallies.
Nan Khin Htwe Myint added that holding public events was important for the campaign because people should be well informed about the issue.
88 Generation leader Jimmy said that people support constitutional change once they are informed about the charter’s current wording, since the 2008 Constitution was written without the public’s proper consent.
“If they [the USDP] are just saying they will change it, the public will not believe it. They need to prove it with work,” he said, insisting that the public campaign was simply an exercise in democracy.
About 15, 000 people joined on constitutional reform rally in Rangoon on May 17, one of many taking place across the country in recent weeks. A public signature campaign is launched today.