Committee to Endorse Change to Threshold on Amending Constitution

Union Solidarity and Development Party, USDP, National League for Democracy

A demonstrator calls for the amendment of Article 436 of Burma’s Constitution in Rangoon’s Thanlyin Township. (Photo: Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)

Parliamentarians from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party are leading ongoing discussions on amendments to Burma’s Constitution, and have agreed to recommend changing a key clause that could pave the way for more wide-reaching charter reform, according to a USDP lawmaker.

The 31 members of the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee continued their meetings on Wednesday, their fourth day of discussions, after first convening on May 15.

“We will amend Article 436 … it has been discussed and agreed in the committee,” committee member Tin Maung Oo, a USDP lawmaker from Rangoon’s Shwe Pyi Thar Township, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“We will submit [the proposal] to the Parliament,” he said, without elaborating on the specific changes to the Constitution, including Article 436, that would be recommended. “The final decision is on the Parliament. As parliamentarians represent the public, it will echo the public’s sentiment.”

Article 436 is an important clause of the 2008, military-backed Constitution. Under the article, 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 military representatives.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and the prominent civil society group 88 Generation Peace and Open Society have been campaigning to have the clause amended, organizing two rallies over the weekend that brought thousands of people out in support of the effort.

“Lawmakers are considering [amendments to the Constitution] based on three principles: the public’s voices, the ethnic [minorities’] desires and benefits for them, and for the sake of the state and statesmen,” Tin Maung Oo said.

Lawmakers say discussions are being informed by public suggestions and recommendations made to the now-dissolved, 109-member parliamentary committee that was first charged with taking input on the charter and was formed in August 2013.

That committee reported to Parliament on Jan. 31, and three days later the current Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee was formed.

Of the latter’s 31 members, 14 are USDP representatives. The committee’s remaining seats were allotted to seven military appointees, two from the NLD, one from the National Unity Party and one from each of Parliament’s ethnic minority parties, representing Arakanese, Shan, Mon, Karen, Chin and Pa-O constituencies.

“We have discussed the basic principles, and the discussions have been going well despite having some differing opinions,” said Banyar Aung Moe, an ethnic Mon lawmaker from the All Mon Region Democracy Party.

Tin Maung Oo, an ex-colonel under the former military regime, said talks so far have included discussions on devolving governance under a federal system, long a taboo topic in Burma. “We understand ethnics have doubts about their experiences under 50 years of the Union,” he said, referring to long-standing complaints by minorities that the ethnic Burman-dominated central government has remained unresponsive or outright antagonistic toward their needs.

He said the committee would submit its final recommendations to the Union Parliament, where votes will be cast on the proposed changes. The upcoming parliamentary session is scheduled to resume next week, on May 28.

After three days of meetings, the committee had discussed articles 433, 434, 435 and 436 under the Constitution’s Section 12, as well as Section 1, titled “The Basic Principles of the Union.”

“We will continue our discussion from Article 20(c) of Section 1 today,” Tin Maung Oo said.

In addition to Article 436’s parliamentary threshold, more contentious parts of the Constitution require a majority of voters to back the change, via a national referendum. Those parts include an article guaranteeing the military’s parliamentary seats and its role in politics; Article 59(f), which bars people with foreign family members, such as NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, from becoming president; and rules on declaring a state of emergency.

Article 59(f), however, has not yet been discussed, according to Banyar Aung Moe.

The committee plans to continue its meetings this week and up until Parliament opens next week.

Win Myint, an NLD lawmaker from Pathein, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that “there is a lot to discuss [regarding the contents of the Constitution], so the discussion will not wrap up this month [before the resumption of Parliament].”

“It cannot be hurried, this kind of discussion,” added Banyar Aung Moe, saying even the wording of single sentences could involve lengthy discussions.

The committee has been charged with concluding its work six months prior to the 2015 election, the date of which has not yet been set.

6 Responses to Committee to Endorse Change to Threshold on Amending Constitution

  1. If people rise up again against regime due to undemocratic reform, military backed usdp will be solely responsible for the damage. We the people feel insult when nargis constitution was designed for than shwe’s dynasty. We the people were prepared to forgive and forget the crimes military committed. But the regime is Behaving inexcusable as they disrespect the people and their will. Today we see people vs regime showdown sooner or later.

  2. What are the articles 433, 434, 435 and 436 under the Constitution’s Section 12?

    433. Any provision of this Constitution may be amended in the manner herein afterprovided :
    (a) the proposal to amend the Constitution shall be submitted in the form of a Bill;
    (b) the Bill to amend the Constitution shall not contain other proposals.

    434. The Bill to amend the Constitution shall be submitted to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

    435. If twenty percent of the total number of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw representatives submit the Bill to amend the Constitution, it shall be considered by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

    436. (a) If it is necessary to amend the provisions of Sections 1 to 48
    in Chapter I, Sections 49 to 56 in Chapter II, Sections 59 and 60
    in Chapter III, Sections 74, 109, 141 and 161
    in Chapter IV, Sections 200, 201,248 and 276
    in Chapter V, Sections 293, 294, 305, 314 and 320
    in Chapter VI, Sections 410 to 432

    ****in Chapter XI and Sections 436 in Chapter XII of this Constitution, it shall be amended with the prior approval of more than seventy-five percent (75%) of all the representatives of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, after which in a nation-wide referendum only with the votes of more than half of those who are eligible to vote.****

    ****(b) Provisions other than those mentioned in Sub-Section (a) shall be
    amended only by a vote of more than seventy-five percent of all the
    representatives of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.****


    We need to change and remove some of Articles from current Constitution. Not all Articles in Constitution were improperly written because most of Articles were copied from 1947 and 1974 Constitution.

    Former dictator Than Shwe had added and amended some of articles in his 2008 Constitution. Those Articles in Than Shwe’s Constitution were specially designed and written for to protect Than Shwe and his family from prosecution by law in future.
    Than Shwe though he and his family are safe as long as Military has involved and controlled on Burmese politic by taken 25% of seats in Parliament and barred Daw Aung San Su Kyi from elected as President of Burma.

    Burma needs to form new independent Constitutional review committee for to review all past and current Constitution.

    President should not involve in selecting of Independent Constitutional Review Committee’s members. The members should be selected on person merit rather than their connection.

    Former and current Military personals and foreigners must not be involved and included in independent Constitutional review committee.
    The Committee members must be formed only with Burmese nationals, Constitution lawyers, representatives from ethnic minority groups and members from Political Party.
    The Committee should not be dominated by either group.

    New Constitution should be written up on recommendations of independent Constitutional review committee. After that, Burmese peoples will decide in free and fair referendum whether they have approved new Constitution as country Constitution or not. Only democracy can develop by support of majority peoples who were freedom from fear of retribution by group of peoples with gun in their hands.

  3. Do not concentrate to amend this type of undemocratic constitution, because it will never end. First of all if they are sincere they should amend Article 59( f ), later on the other Articles, otherwise whole constitution can not change in one time. What they are thinking is just to show international communities to get money by doing just lips services.

  4. Regime promised the citizens with democracy but the regime is not willing to have democratic constitution. What kind of democracy regime has been talking about? There are smart and intelligent citizens out there, even many times smarter than the generals. Wearing green uniforms and carrying pistols will not make these generals smarter than the citizens of Myanmar. Regime should know that they could be sentenced to death penalty by the people but people chose to forgive them for the crimes they committed. But these generals are insulting the public by cheating. Promising one thing and handing the opposite thing is making the public so angry now. Regime must not think that people are blind to see what regime is crookedly doing. We see all their crooked agendas and what they are doing against the will of the public.

  5. 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

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