Suu Kyi Calls on Army Members to Sign Constitutional Reform Petition

Aung San Su Kyi gives a speech on constitutional reform in Rangoon to thousands of supporters on May 17. (Photo: JPaing/Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burma’s main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged members of the military to support a nationwide petition to reform the country’s undemocratic Constitution.

For many months the National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman has been calling for amendments to the military-drafted charter, which was adopted following a flawed referendum under the previous junta in 2008.

On Tuesday, her party and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society began a petition campaign to gather public support for reforming the charter’s Article 436. “We are doing something to change the future of our country. Please urge anyone in your community to join it. Please do it,” Suu Kyi said at the start of the two-month petition period.

She said members of the Burma Army, which numbers between 300,000 and 400,000 soldiers, should also sign the petition and support change in their country.

“I want to urge army men to sign it because as the country’s employees they have right to sign it too,” Suu Kyi said, adding that support from military lawmakers in Parliament is also imperative to achieving charter reform.

A quarter of Burma’s parliamentary seats are reserved for military officers, in accordance with the Constitution. They are routinely replaced and have to vote on orders of Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Suu Kyi’s party and ethnic opposition parties hold a small number of seats in Parliament. The rest are controlled by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which comprises members of the former junta.

The Constitution’s Article 436 states that key amendments to the charter can only take place if more than 75 percent of Parliament supports it—a provision that gives the military a de facto veto.

Suu Kyi challenged the notion that army MPs should vote in accordance with their commander’s orders and said, “any change to the charter is totally dependent on a person’s wish and whether he wants to change [the Constitution] or not.”

Wai Lin, a Lower House military lawmaker, said in a reaction that only military MPs on the parliamentary committee for constitutional reform could decide whether or not Burma Army members could support Suu Kyi’s petition.

“We need a discussion with them on whether [soldiers can] join or not join the petition,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The charter remains unpopular among the Burmese public as it grants political powers to the military and immunity for crimes committed under the junta, and because Article 59 (f) prevents Suu Kyi from becoming president because her children are British nationals.

The government has shown signs of increasing nervousness over Suu Kyi’s call on the public to support reform. On May 18, the Union Election Commission (UEC) issued a warning to Suu Kyi over her challenge to the country’s military to amend the charter, saying she was “speaking outside of the boundaries of the Constitution.”

In February, President Thein Sein sent a secret directive to all top government officials warning them to prepare for unrest because of a public campaign to amend the charter would gather steam this year.

4 Responses to Suu Kyi Calls on Army Members to Sign Constitutional Reform Petition

  1. Soldiers better join the people’s movement if they are defending the people. People rose up against dictators who misused soldiers to protect their own power and their own wealth. Soldiers who have noble hearts and souls must come out sign the petition. Suu Kyi will not live forever. So, amending constitution is so important that we better stand up with Suu Kyi and 88gpos to build the bright future for Next generations. Dishonest and self serving regime tries to hold on to power endlessly. Regime cares about for themselves while Suu Kyi has been fighting and sacrificing her own life for all of us. So, ordinary soldiers who are suffering and regarded as regime’s dogs must come out and sign the petition in order to let themselves free from regime’s slavery.

    • 100% agree
      If soldiers come out to sign for all people “will”, those soldiers are good to be mature enough, are no more child soldiers.

  2. True patriotic Soldiers, along with the people, must dare to hope, and dare to come up and show up what you want.
    The generals won’t live forever. Neither will Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Neither will you nor anybody for that matter. But posterity lives on. and they must live on, unchained, free and unafraid.
    You must give a hand to your parents, brothers and sisters, and all others so that we gain freedom from the terrible authoritarian rulers, the super-rich generals and their cronies.

  3. if soldiers sign for DASSK, they are good to be mature enough. Otherwise, soldiers are childish by Fox than shwe.

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