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CONSTITUTION

Protestors Gather in Rangoon to Call for Constitutional Amendments

Several dozen protestors gathered at Rangoon City Hall to demand constitutional amendments that would allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president.


RANGOON — Several dozen activists gathered in front of Rangoon’s City Hall on Friday to protest and demand that Burma’s Parliament amends provisions in the Constitution that prevent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

About 70 protestors gathered at City Hall carrying banners on Friday morning and Zaw Win, a member of a small activist group called Democratic Forces, said the demonstration was meant to focus public attention on the ongoing controversy surrounding Burma’s military-drafted Constitution.

The 2008 Constitution is widely viewed as being undemocratic as it grants sweeping political powers to the military and because Article 59 (f) prevents National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Suu Kyi from becoming president.

The article states that a president’s spouse or children cannot be citizens of a foreign country. Suu Kyi was married to British national Micheal Aris, who died in 1999, and she has two sons who are British subjects.

“We don’t want such an article. Without it, we can freely vote for our leader. We want to urge the government to listen to our voices,” said a protestor named Hla Myint.

“We will continue with our demands as we think it is our civic right to choose our leader for the presidency,” said another protester called Kay Thi Nwe.

“The NLD also has many demands for constitutional amendments, but the key is the people’s desires, these must not be ignored,” said Rakha Wuntha, a monk from Magway Monastic School in Rangoon, who participated in the gathering.

Since becoming an MP in 2012, Suu Kyi has called for broad-ranging changes to the Constitution, but the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has thus far dragged their feet on such discussions.

On Monday, however, the USDP announced that it was putting forth 57 amendments to the Constitution, including an amendment to Article 59 (f) that could allow Suu Kyi to become president as long as her two sons renounce their British citizenship and become Burmese citizens.

It remains unclear what Suu Kyi thinks of the amendments suggested by the ruling party, which is closely affiliated with Burma’s powerful military.

On Thursday, President Thein Sein said that he supports efforts to change the Constitution and remove restrictions that currently prevent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Speaking 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.”