Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the 88 Generation, who recently joined together to push for changes to the 2008 Constitution, say they will target a clause that gives the military a veto over amending the charter.
The group that was born out of Burma’s 1988 student uprising and the party of Aung San Suu Kyi last week said they would join forces to campaign for key changes to the military-drafted Constitution before elections in 2015.
The current Constitution guarantees the military a role in national politics, bars NLD chairperson Suu Kyi from becoming president and is criticized by ethnic groups who demand more autonomy in border areas.
On Sunday, following the latest in a series of meetings between leaders from the NLD and the 88 Generation, the groups issued another joint statement declaring that they would prioritize amending Chapter 12’s Article 436. The article currently gives the Burmese military an effective veto over Constitutional amendments.
Opposition spokesman Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the rules around amending the Constitution would be addressed first by the two groups’ joint campaign.
Although Parliament—currently dominated by current and former soldiers—has the sole power to make amendments, he said, the NLD is hoping to force change using “people power,” and by making it clear there is overwhelming public support.
Under Article 436, amending any part of the Constitution requires the support of more than 75 percent of members of the Union Parliament, in which a quarter of seats are reserved for unelected serving military officials.
More contentious parts of the Constitution additionally require a majority of voters to back the change in a national referendum. These parts include the article guaranteeing the military its parliamentary seats and its role in politics; Article 59(f), which blocks people with foreign family members, like Suu Kyi, from becoming president; and the rules around declaring a state of emergency.
88 Generation leader Pyone Cho said amending Article 436 would pave the way for the Constitution—which was nominally approved by the public in a referendum that observers said was deeply flawed—to reflect the people’s wishes.
“It is the main obstacle for constitutional reform, so we agreed that we first must amend every provision under Article 436 of Chapter 12, so that the Constitution can be in accordance with democratic principles,” he said.
Parliament has formed an implementation committee following a report from the Joint Constitutional Review Committee (JCRC) in January. The JCRC reported that—barring a single petition against Constitutional reform signed by more than 100,000 people, reportedly members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party—most of the 28,000 letters in response to a consultation were in favor of amending the charter.
Khin Maung Swe, the chairman of another political party, the National Democratic Force, said his party was in support of charter reform and was pushing for amendments in Parliament.
However, he said, “Amendments prior to the 2015 election are unsure of success as there remain issues of the peace building with the ethnic groups, which is directly related [to constitutional reform].”