‘No Real Democracy’ for Burma if Constitution Goes Unchanged: Suu Kyi

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to the Burmese community living in Singapore on Sept. 22, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Edgar Su)

Burma will not enjoy “real democracy” until the country changes its Constitution, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in a speech to Singapore’s Burmese community during a visit to the city-state Sunday.

Suu Kyi, who is a parliamentarian and chairwoman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), spoke in front of more than 5,000 people from Burma, linking constitutional change to the larger fate of the transitioning nation.

“Our country needs to have rule of law and peace, and needs to change the Constitution. If there is no change to the Constitution … it will be difficult to have peace and rule of law. Then, our country will have no real democracy.

“I always say this whenever I meet government officials who were formerly of the military regime. … I tell them that I hope both sides can sit down and make changes to the Constitution.”

On her four-day visit to the fellow Asean member state, Suu Kyi also met Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and served as keynote speaker at a separate lecture series on leadership in Asia that was attended by members of the international community.

Suu Kyi made her trip to Singapore on the return leg of a visit last week to the Czech Republic in Europe, where she met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and spoke at a conference on “societies in transition.”

Burma has undergone major political and economic reforms since a quasi-civilian government took power from the ruling military regime two-and-a-half years ago. The military-drafted 2008 Constitution, however, remains as an enduring legacy of the former regime with present-day implications for the prospect of democratic governance.

Suu Kyi herself is not eligible to run for Burma’s presidency due to a constitutional provision that bars anyone with a foreign-born spouse or children from running for the office. Suu Kyi’s late husband was a British national, as are her two sons.

The Constitution also guarantees 25 percent of the seats in Parliament to members of the military, and much of the current leadership under the administration of President Thein Sein was plucked from the ranks of the former military regime—including Thein Sein himself, a former general and prime minister.

The opposition NLD, pro-democracy activists and ethnic rebel groups have called for amending or scrapping entirely the 2008 Constitution. It was passed via a public referendum in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis, in what is widely considered to have been a sham vote.

Suu Kyi, who chairs the Lower House of Parliament’s Committee for Rule of Law and Stability, compared Burma’s reform process with other countries’ democratization, saying opposition voices were typically given more influence in guiding the transitions.

“Our Constitution has been written by only a few elected representatives of the people, and most people were from the military dictatorship,” she said. “This is how it has been different from other countries. This needs to change.”

A 109-member parliamentary committee has been formed to study the possibility of changing the Constitution, with representation of the committee identical in proportion to the makeup of the national Parliament as a whole. The NLD has been allotted seven committee seats.

In response to a request that she address the issue of Burmese migrant workers in Singapore, specifically maids, who were unable to attend the event on Sunday, Suu Kyi said they were not forgotten, and called on the government to protect their interests.

“To protect citizens is the duty of government. Every government has a duty to do this. Indonesia and Malaysia protect their citizens. Our country needs to do so as well.”

Burmese migrant workers, who often take jobs in wealthier countries as domestic help, have frequently been victims of abuse by their employers, with human rights groups criticizing Burma’s government for failing to adequately protect them abroad.

15 Responses to ‘No Real Democracy’ for Burma if Constitution Goes Unchanged: Suu Kyi

  1. Burma ( also called Myanmar ) need to change entire constitution, other wise it cannot become democratic state.

    If military does not want to change it, then better to rule by military for ever, not necessary to show of as reformist or what so called toward the democracy. Do not cheat yourself and international community.

    To create internal communal riot is totally non-sense, just you are making yourself trouble in the society, no body will accept you. If the government has sincerity from now start re-write the constitution for the future of Burma to be golden age.

  2. You don’t always get what you wish for. Especially when dealing with the gangster generals who have stolen Burma.

  3. Come on! Burmese way to Socialism was even better than Marxism itself. That’s why Ne Win got his butt kicked in his final days. Philosopher, Than Shwe, is wise enough to introduce Myanmarese way to democracy. Nobody wants to kick his butt because it is too smelly. The current regime is talking about REFORM. This regime has the same smelly butt. Why “reform”? If they really want to see real democracy, they would not have drafted this constitution. This constitution was designed to run fake democratic regime. So, the regime will not allow the opposition groups to fix and to rewrite new one because Than Shwe never wants to get hanged.

  4. No real reform can be achieved with fake constitution too. Cosmetic change is not what we the people call “DEMOCRACY”. 2008’s Nargis Constitution is not to bring democracy in Myanmar, but to protect Than Shwe and other killers from death chambers.

  5. Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins.

  6. I quote from DASSK’s speech, “Our country needs to have rule of law and peace, and needs to change the Constitution. If there is no change to the Constitution … it will be difficult to have peace and rule of law. Then, our country will have no real democracy.”
    I do not see if any one, even from amongst her critiques, can deny the truth of the extract.
    Our nation has to be led by such an ideal, and yet practicable, objective. I say “practicable” because practicality is, in fact, a matter of free will. And this will, I believe is the will of the people to be put into practice by leaders, true leaders, not those who believe in regimentation. Regimentation is the very antithesis of freedom and democracy, and not an instrument of a nation-wide peace. If these people truly want to raise the moral and material standard of our people, they have to learn a lot from this mature lady, who, I like many others believe, can lead the nation to a respectable social, economic and political standing among the world community of nations.

  7. People will forgive the killers if they genuinely repent. Now, they are going to make the people even angrier as the regime fails to bring real democracy. To bring back genuine democracy, the constitution must be rewritten according to the people’s wishes. Current constitution is absolutely unfit to pave the road to DEMOCRACY.

  8. She talk too much , she take too much advantage on our people , she want to become hero again like 1988 uprising , she is overestimate herself , but unfortunately now a day , she is just one of them ,politician in Myanmar , nothing special . Now our people know who’s to choose and who’s to leave , now our people know about her and her party ( NLD ) . I would like to advice to Daw Aung San- Su Kyi and her party , people not like your party at all , this is their right to confuse and right to accept , so take it or leave it , only up to you and your party decision , don’t make complicate and mess up to our country and our people , try to be capable and reliable to people , enough is enough. don’t forget , all ( 60 ) million people in country are not your party member , leave us alone . you are just parts of this . We have country to protect and we have family to take care , better or worse , whatever is take , we not need carpetbagger like you to lead our country .

  9. On page 2, Preamble of 2008 Nargis Constitution reads:

    “We, the National people, drafted this Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar ……..”.

    When did it happen? Did I fall asleep when my fellow citizens drafted this? What I remember was the people who were handpicked Than Shwe drafted this. How can the Thein Sein regime claim that the people of Myanmar drafted this constitution? If preamble itself is intentionally written this way, the whole Nargis constitution must be trashed in the dumpster and, newly and democratically elected representatives better rewrite Constitution which deserves to be called “The Constitution of the Union of Myanmar”. In short, this 2008 Nargis constitution was not drafted by the National People, and it was not approved by the people either. Amendment will not satisfy us but we demand the brand new one drafted by the people’s representatives.

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

    DASSK’s Speech said “Our Constitution has been written by only a few elected representatives of the People , and most People were from the Military Dictatorship. I’ve felt sorry to Mention again that Except few Patriots Military Personnel, Most of them are never to be Trusted. Trust is One of the Important factors in Govt Administration. Since Burma gained Independence in 1948, Late Gen Ne Win was Never been Trusted. He committed Adultery, Murdered Innocent/Unarmed University Students at Students’ Union Building in July 7th 62 as well as his Thugs killed mercilessly to Late BCP Bo Zay Ya ( One of the 30 Comrades fought for Independence ) & also Late KNU President Saw Ba Oo Gyi. What a Pity ! And What a Tremendous Lost for Newly gained Independence Country.
    Our Country was filled with Violent Events of History all the way, never ending. And Instead of Finding Peace, The Brutal Generals are still seeking for their Power in Hlut-taw,taking as much as Opportunities from Burma’s Resources. The New Class of Burma . Never ending of Exploiting the People & the Country. Ne Win dies and left his Clones behind. And Fox Than Shwe is the Worst,and No.3 Status in Dictatorship Lines among Other 20 Dictators. No.1 Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir, No.2 North Korea Kim Jong-il were in front of him.
    Thus ,Burma’s 2008 Nargis Constitution must Change and Thoroughly, No Exception. That is the People’s Choice , Not the Generals or Military’s Choice.

  11. Through the years she has been the beacon of hope for the people of Myanmar who had lost their voice in fear of what the military government would do to them, if they spoke up.
    We have admired her and felt encouraged, because she dared to say, what others just whispered.
    – Now the military has losened the grip on the people’ s voice. We hear multiple voices, also voices disagreeing with each other.

    But the lady has kept her talent to say what is necessary, when it becomes necessary: With this constituition Myanmar can never have true democracy.

    Ne Win invented the Burmese Way to Socialism, which became the Burmese Way to Poverty. Than Shwe invented “the Myanmar Way to Discipline Flourishing Democracy”. He enshrined it in the constituition of 2008, which was greeted by the people, as they welcomed the killer cyclone Nargis. In fact this constituition shows the way to permanent domination by military power, with or without uniform. But democracy means “rule of the people”, not “rule of the army”.

    When Gandhi-ji confronted the colonial might of Britain he used the concept of “satya-graha”- stick fast to the truth. It was sufficient to win independence for India. Will holding fast to “truth” be able to win freedom for the people of Myanmar?
    I would like the members of the Tat-ma-daw to discovers new values:.honesty, truth, integrity, service, unselfishness, generosity, courage to protect the weak, and courage to confront injustice. .A constituition should inspire the people;it should embody the noblest aspirations and hopes of the nation. If support for it has to be enforced at gunpoint, as happened in 2008, the constituition cannot serve the purpose of nation building. It can only serve the purpose for which it was written: to keep the Myanmar army in power indefinitely, and to protect the retired generals and their families from justice.This is not a noble and lofty national goal, the goal is mean, selfish, and limited in its benefits.

  12. In history it will go down as a cruel joke, if the present government does not show the generosity to scrap the paragraphs preventing DASSK from running for president. There are elegant means and ridiculous means of retaining power. These paragraphs are ridiculous. How much the composers of the constituition must have feared the lady to stoop so low? When in fact, she is an imcomparable asset to the prestige of our almost failed state! She should be treasured, not prevented.

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