Myanmar’s Thein Sein Says ‘a Healthy Constitution Must Be Amended’

Thein Sein Says ‘a Healthy Constitution Must Be Amended’

Thein Sein, Myanmar, Burma, Union Solidarity and Development Party, USDP, National League for Democracy, NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, Constitution, amendments, reform, politics

President Thein Sein, center left, stands with 88 Generation Students leaders in Naypyidaw in September. (Photo: President’s Office)

RANGOON — Facing mounting pressure for greater political reform, Burmese President Thein Sein says he supports efforts to change the Constitution and remove restrictions that currently prevent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Speaking Thursday in a monthly radio address, Thein Sein said “a healthy Constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic and social needs of our society.”

“I would not want restrictions imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country,” he said. “At the same time, we will need to have all necessary measures in place in order to defend our national interests and sovereignty.”

The 2008 Constitution was written by the former military regime and passed after a referendum that was widely criticized as rigged. It includes a provision that makes Suu Kyi ineligible for the presidency because her late husband was British and her two sons continue to hold foreign citizenship.

Thein Sein said he believed the Constitution would need to be changed for national reconciliation, as he seeks to secure a nationwide ceasefire with over 10 ethnic armed groups after decades of civil war.

“Political dialogue, which is essential for national reconciliation and the foundation of the national peace process, may require amending, or revision, of the Constitution,” he said.

Ethnic groups are calling either for broad changes or a complete rewriting of the Constitution to create a federalist system that would give ethnic minority states greater power over their own affairs.

Thein Sein added a note of caution about how far political reform might go.

“Since the beginning of my administration, I have not done anything in an unaccountable manner. I have tried to promote harmony. I have tried to do everything I can to meet the needs and wishes of the people,” he said.

“However, I would like to emphasize that if the political demands made by the public are larger than what the current political system can accommodate, we can all end up in political deadlock. If this happens, we could lose all the political freedom we have achieved so far. I would therefore like to urge all of you to handle such situation with care and wisdom.”

The president’s speech drew mixed reactions from opposition leaders, who said it was unclear whether talk of amendments would translate to action.

“It depends how he will implement his words,” Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

NLD member Yan Myo Thein also criticized the radio address as ambiguous, saying, “He did not give a clear message. He was very cautious in his speech.”

On Monday, Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said in a surprise announcement that it had put forth proposals for amendments to the 2008 Constitution, including a change that would make Suu Kyi eligible for the presidency if her two sons became Burmese citizens.

Suu Kyi said she would allow her sons, both adults, to make their own decision. It is not possible to hold dual citizenship in Burma, meaning that they would need to give up their British citizenship.

“Since they turned 21 years old I have not had the right to decide for them,” she told Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service. “It would not be up to the standards of democracy if there was a law to decide for them.”

The USDP has voted in favor of changing 52 articles in the Constitution and eliminating 21 articles. The NLD is pushing to change 168 articles.

Members of the public have been asked to submit comments about constitutional reform to lawmakers, with about 320,000 letters of suggestion submitted thus far, according to the parliamentary committee working on constitutional reform.

Thein Sein said the military has also submitted proposals to the parliamentary committee, but he did not elaborate as to the nature of those proposals.

The Constitution currently reserves 25 percent of seats in Parliament for military representatives.

Burma is gearing up for elections in 2015, and Suu Kyi has expressed ambitions to become president.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate recently suggested that her party might boycott the polls if there was no constitutional reform, but the NLD later said it would contest the elections no matter what.

In 2012 by-elections which brought Suu Kyi to Parliament, the NLD won 43 of 44 seats it contested.

10 Responses to Thein Sein Says ‘a Healthy Constitution Must Be Amended’

  1. puppet thien sein said “However, I would like to emphasize that if the political demands made by the public are larger than what the current political system can accommodate, we can all end up in political deadlock. If this happens, we could lose all the political freedom we have achieved so far. I would therefore like to urge all of you to handle such situation with care and wisdom.”

    Puppet thein sein wants to say that Burmese people are too low in education, income and too naive to have full democracy. When USDP stirs up some Arakanese to kill Rohyingya in the reasoning of religious competition, some naive Arakanese are ready and eager to kill without any second thoughts. When USDP grips 2008 nargic casual killing constitution with bama military favorism in the clash of Buddhist and local Muslim, some naive accepts the important and need of bama military casual killing right in the slogans of nationalism, Buddhinization, de-panglonisation and sovereignty.

  2. What or who is the President afraid of, considering the his advanced warnings and cautions. Why can’t he let the people decide for their own good. The people won’t for self-destruction. Only unscrupulous governments can make self-defeatist policies, doing a lot of harms to the people and to themselves eventually. Look back into the near recent history of Myanmar.
    So, Mr President, will you please be so kind and patient as to listen with earnest sympathy and see the outcome of current debates and propositions. The people will not harm themselves. There are learned and wise people among them. Only a peaceable, civilized people can achieve great aims in freedom and democracy. Please do not think little of your own country folks.

  3. Shut up. You were the one Than Shwe picked to lead when Nargis constitution was drafted. You are 100% responsible for this fake constitution. You always lick Than Shwe’s smelly butt until now. No one, except USDP, is trying to harm the sovereignty of Myanmar.

  4. To become a president in Myanmar, the amendment of 2008 constitution should be the same as 1947 and 1973 constitutions in which there were fair characteristics for presidential candidates. Children shouldn’t be restricted for their parents’ will. They should be free to decide their own life! The vital point for candidates is they must be Myanmar citizen!

  5. Don’t forget to remove 25% of unelected Military Officers from Parliament and cancel the State Supreme Council as well. It’s very important for democracy.

  6. It’s all happening.
    Who am I to comment on such sensitive issues.
    There is a saying we could miss between the cup and the lips.
    They are thinking.
    Nobody wants to go back to the old ways.
    Let’s all look within ourselves before we say anything.
    The good days are back again.

  7. Thein Sein’s political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

  8. Puppet Thein sein, his godfather fox than shwe and his men (USDP and cronies) are all DIRTY and tricky (Nargic killers, Nargic murderers, rapists, thieves and lairs) so you all are not eligible or can not find healthy constitution for Burma.
    2008 Nargic constitution all clauses should be displayed in all international airports, all libraries main doors, all clubs, you tube, googles and face books for international judgement/comment around the world. Then, thien sein will be dismissed from the chairman of coming ASEAN.
    Let all ethnics’ leaders to permit special visa for becoming international gusts around the world to denounce the undemocratic 2008 nargic constitution as well as to explain the context of Panglong agreement, designed by G-Aung San, dishonored by all bama rulers.

  9. People are watch Thein Sein’s every step. He is softly lying since day one. Let him keep serving Than Shwe, Kyaing Kyaing and Pho Lee Pyae. We no longer listen to what he is saying.

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

    Dear President U Thein Sein , I really don’t know or believe what’s your Eloquent words Mentioning that you supports , Efforts of Changing the Constitution, and Remove Restrictions that Currently prevent DASSK for becoming President .
    Remember In 1988 Uprising When the Short Term President asked for the Referendum, What are The People Wishes, whether One Party System or Multi-party System and Whether The House Ladies Participated in 88 Uprising . No need for the Answers . Thousands & Thousands of Peaceful Protesters were on the Streets demanding for Freedom of Democracy.
    Likewise , Burmese Citizens People approved DASSK & NLD since 1990 Election , Even Military Personnel also. Now , it’s time to undertand each other. Bo Nay Myair, Kyar Nay Myair ( Bo the Human and the Tiger as they were before ). The Military must go back to the Barracks with Dignity and the Intellectuals , Let them handle the Country.

Readers' comments