Amendments Should Not Harm Essence of Constitution, Military Warns

By San Yamin Aung 23 February 2019

YANGON—Myanmar’s military has denounced recent attempts made by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to amend the country’s constitution, saying it is “breaching constitutional rules” and warning that the military wouldn’t tolerate any amendments that harm the essence of the Constitution.

Speaking at a press conference held in Yangon on Saturday afternoon, senior leaders of the military, or Tatmadaw, reiterated the opposition of its Parliament appointees against the formation of a joint committee tasked with amending the military-drafted Constitution.

“We hereby would like to repeat again that we are not objecting to constitutional reforms, but we object to their action (of forming a committee) which is against constitutional rules and Parliament by-laws,” said Maj-Gen Tun Tun Nyi.

He said the ratio of members of the committee is “not fair” and that any resulting report presented by the 45-member committee would not be “complete.” The military was allocated eight seats on the committee.

“The Constitution belongs to all nationals and it took long time to draft it… The amendments also need to take time and must be carried out broadly,” he said.

Gen. Than Soe, a military representative in Parliament, said the committee’s attempts at drafting an amendment “breaches the Constitution.”

“It should be enough that the committee’s duty is to submit the report on their findings for the amendments of the Constitution. I also presented this objection when we discussed the formation of the committee at the Parliament. Allowing [the committee] to draft the amending bill of the Constitution breaches the Constitution,” he said.

Maj-Gen Tun Tun Nyi said the NLD has previously breached the Constitution by creating the new post of state councilor, now filled by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is barred from becoming president under the Constitution.

“We will need to wait and see what the results and consequences [of this second breaching of constitutional rules] will be, he said.

The senior military leaders said that as the joint committee has been formed, the military representatives will agree to take part in the committee. However, they warned that they wouldn’t accept any amendments that harm the essence of the Constitution or any of the 48 basic principles of the Union stated in the charter’s Chapter 1.

The military appointees, who hold 25 percent of seats in Parliament as stipulated in the Constitution, cited Chapter 12 of the charter in their rejection of the NLD’s proposal to form the committee from the outset. They said that at least 20 percent of lawmakers must agree to submitting a bill before discussing it in Parliament. The committee was formed after a majority of votes—from the NLD and other ethnic party members in Parliament—agreed to its formation. The NLD rejected the accusation, saying it is not yet proposing amendments, but merely the creating of an all-inclusive committee to review it for potential reforms.