RANGOON — Burma’s Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann has said that Aung San Suu Kyi’s nationwide public campaign for constitutional reform will not influence parliamentary discussions on the matter.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the 88 Generation Open and Peace Society have launched a nationwide campaign in recent months calling for amendment of Article 436 of the Constitution.
The popular opposition leader and 88 Generation leaders have held large public rallies in Burma’s major cities and started a petition drive in support of reform on May 27 that had collected 3.3 million signatures by June 30. The petition will run until July 19.
Shwe Mann, chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said on Thursday that the public campaign, despite its millions of supporters, would not influence lawmakers looking into the issue of constitutional reform.
“They are collecting [signatures for a] petition as they want. [But] this action won’t affect the implementing committee formed by Parliament,” he told reporters during a press conference in Naypyidaw.
Shwe Mann said the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee will discuss possible reforms in accordance with instructions provided by Parliament and would therefore not consider the results of the NLD’s public campaign.
Burma’s 2008 charter was drafted by the then-military regime and is widely viewed as undemocratic, as it grants sweeping political powers to the Burma Army, including control over a quarter of all Parliament seats. The unpopular charter also provides immunity from crimes committed under the former regime and Article 59 (f) prevents Suu Kyi from holding the office of the president because her sons are British nationals.
Suu Kyi and the 88 Generation are pushing for amendments to Article 436 as it stipulates amendments to key parts of the Constitution can only take place with support of more than 75 percent of all MPs—a clause that provides effective veto power to military lawmakers who control 25 percent of the legislature.
The ruling USDP, filled with former junta generals who shed their uniforms when they became lawmakers in 2010, is participating in the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee. Some of its members, including Shwe Mann, who also eyes the presidency after the 2015 elections, have signaled that they would consider key reforms.
The committee has said it will discuss amending Article 436 and a number of other articles, but it remains to be seen whether fundamental changes will be made that would erode the power of the military.
The committee decided on June 12 that it was unwilling to amend Article 59 (f) after USDP and military MPs on the committee reportedly blocked the idea, landing a blow to Suu Kyi’s hopes of holding presidential office
The 31-member committee comprises 14 USDP MPs and seven military lawmakers. There are only two NLD members and eight committee members of various ethnic minority parties, representing Arakanese, Shan, Mon, Karen, Chin and Pa-O constituencies.
The committee has been charged with concluding its work six months prior to the 2015 election, which is expected to be held in November or December.