Suu Kyi Calls on Myanmar Military to ‘Back Down’

Suu Kyi Calls on Military to ‘Back Down’

Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, Rangoon, Yangon, constitution, 88 Generation, 88 Peace and Open Society, Myanmar, Burma, The Irrawaddy, reform

Thousands of NLD supporters gather at Bo Sein Hamn field in Rangoon to listen to constitutional reform talks by opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi and pro-democracy activist Min Ko Naing on Saturday. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the military to give up its veto power over constitutional amendments, during a rally in Rangoon on Saturday that drew some 15,000 people.

“I would like to ask the army whether they want to back down in a way that’s dignified, in a way that earns them the cheers of their people,” the National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman told the crowd.

In a message to army representatives who are guaranteed one-quarter of seats in Parliament, and who are currently endowed with veto power over proposed amendments, she added, “Think of the country’s future and respect the public’s will, which is for you to back down from Parliament, and to do so willingly when the time comes.”

Suu Kyi is ramping up her campaign for amendments to the 2008 Constitution, which, in addition to cementing the military’s dominant role in politics, bars her from the presidency.

In collaboration with the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, her NLD party is organizing rallies across the country to show popular support for amendments.

During her speech at Rangoon’s Bo Sein Hman field on Saturday morning, the opposition leader said her first priority was to amend Section 436 of the charter, which requires more than 75 percent of Parliament to support amendments to key articles in the Constitution, giving the military an effective veto over such reforms.

Suu Kyi urged her supporters to educate their communities about the need for this amendment. In the crowd, thousands of hands shot up into the air when she asked who would volunteer to persuade at least 10 to 20 people to join a signature campaign in support of changes to the charter. Fewer hands remained raised when she asked who would persuade 50 people to join the campaign, and fewer still when she encouraged them to convince a member of the military.

The opposition leader criticized President Thein Sein’s own remarks about constitutional reform in Parliament. On March 26, four days prior to the third anniversary of his taking office, the president said constitutional reform should be done “gently,” and that the military should retain its role in politics.

“My opinion is that his speech showed a desire to maintain the 2008 Constitution,” Suu Kyi said.

She addressed concerns that amendments to Article 436 and to Article 59, which bars her from the presidency, would only further the aims of the ethnic majority Burman people, while ignoring the desires of ethnic minorities.

“What do ethnic people want? Genuine democracy. A genuine union based on federalist principles,” she said. “Calls for federalism—our NLD has always supported this, even in times when it was seen as a crime by authorities to even speak about federalism.

“We understand what ethnic people expect and dream of. Our dreams are the same: to live securely and peacefully. All humans have the same dream. All citizens in this country also want to live securely, peacefully and freely.”

Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Peace and Open Society, said more rallies were planned in Mandalay, Rangoon and across the country. The Burmese dissident—one of the most well-known in the country—said it was important to prove to the government that supporters of constitutional reform are informed.

“This is not the day we threaten by showing our quantity, but our quality,” he said. “They believe our people are naïve and know nothing, but the people here are peaceful and disciplined.”

NLD offices across the country will collect signatures as part of a petition campaign for amendments between May 27 and July 19. Any citizen over the age of 18 can participate, so long as they show a valid ID card and address, according to Myo Aung, an NLD central executive committee member.

One member of the crowd, Phyu Ei Thein, said she supported the NLD campaign. “More public talks are needed to further understanding about constitutional reform,” she told The Irrawaddy. “I think this section [436] needs to be amended because the Constitution was drafted unfairly without the will of the public.”

Win War War Htun, 34, a Burmese citizen who lives abroad and was visiting Rangoon, said she had never before seen this type of rally in her country. “The public needs to be informed about constitutional reform,” she said. “They’re talking about amending section 436 today, and everybody should know about it.”

13 Responses to Suu Kyi Calls on Military to ‘Back Down’

  1. There’s only one obstacle standing in the way of bringing meaningful change to Burma-Than Shwe. He’s old and frail but he’s still alive. This government is his and every opening either politically or economically in the last 3 years happened at his blessing. Let him die first and let’s talk about change then. When the snake head is still alive and functioning, it can still attack and poison. Its head must be cut off to complete dismantle the snake…unless we wanna put ourselves in a situation where we’re open and vulnerable to its bite and subsequent poisoning.

  2. Than Shwe designed the regime’s constitution un-amendable. More than 75% of votes on the floor of Hlutdaw is rewuired and 25% of seats are occupied by Than Shwe’s dogs. So, non-elected soldiers on the floor of Hlutdaw must go back to their barracks if they really love the Union and the citizens of the Union. Serving Than Shwe must be discontinued, and serving the citizens of the Union must be started.

  3. time to change. Anything good for country and people just do it and dont think and think.

  4. Myanmar people may need to know what ‘federalism’ means.

  5. Myanmar is actually “Militaristic Unitary Myanmar”. It is no way near to be fit “Union”. As long as soldiers are automatically occupying 25% of the seats on the Hlutdaw floor, Myanmar will never be a democratic nation.

  6. We the people must support NLD and 88GPOS to amend the constitution. Thein Sein, Shwe Mann and Min Aung Hlaing will never push for real change because they were sent to their posts by their big uncle Than Shwe to safeguard his undemocratic Nargis constitution. People’s movement needs leaders from NLD and 88GPOS. Ethnic groups must support and work with NLD and 88GPOS. How long the ethnics have been fighting for? All ethnics’ movements were crushed violently in the past. Thousands of lives were killed. If we were not having Daw Suu, all of us might have been gunned down and killed by dictators. Daw Suu has been able to receive supports from around the globe. The Myanmar majority and all the ethnics must work together to change the constitution. Ethnics will never enjoy peace and freedom unless they join NLD and 88GPOS. All ethnics must be united under the leadership of UNFC and they must also work with the Myanmars under the leadership of NLD and 88GPOS.

  7. Some of Myanmar’s Army never think about country’s future……only think how to protect their former army commander in chief. I said “some”…not all

  8. This is the showdown between the Burmese peoples and top brass of military,who want to control the power from behind the curtain. This is the patriotic duty for Thein Sein and all Burmese military personals to support the amendments to the 2008 Constitution for the future of nation.

  9. Suu Kyi stepped on the trap/snare of regime but she did not get caught. She steps out danger now. Suu Kyi and 88GPOS must fight relentlessly until Nargis constitution is totally thrown into the dumpster. Suu Kyi was a bit naive but she is well awakened.

  10. By insulting the public, regime will have bigger enemy. Drafting this nargis constitution, regime has to grab tiger’s tail longer. The Tiger will turn to them and kill them sooner or later. How long and how many times regime has insulted the citizens of the union of myanmar? Enough is enough. Regime is public enemy number one.

  11. Shall we hit right on the nail; and call a ‘Spade’, a ‘Spade’ because we are running out of time.

    Step-1: U Thein Sein Administration to step down

    Step-2: Form a Coalition Government

    Step-2: Amend Constitution 2008 Drafted, or Rewrite new one

    Step-4: Hold New Elections

  12. Soldiers under the rank of Lt. Colonel are so tired of serving the selfish agenda of high ranking officers. If public rise up against the crooked regime, they will surely join the public. Few top crooks will be left one side and countless people and soldiers will be on another side. This time, genuine democracy will be achieved. Until then, Than Shwe may think he is in a safe bunker under the protection of his puppets. The wicked and crooked will not last that long. They always collapse like rotted trees. People vs regime showdown is at hand.

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