ANP Chairman: NLD Should Build Trust With Military, Amend the Constitution

By Htet Naing Zaw 18 May 2017

NAYPYIDAW — Arakan National Party (ANP) chairman Dr. Aye Maung has urged the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to build trust with the Burma Army, with an eye to amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution through Parliament.

“Wouldn’t a constitutional amendment benefit the peace process? If the NLD thinks so, there must be a channel to amend the Constitution—and that would be amending it in Parliament,” U Aye Maung, who is also the lawmaker for Ann Township, told reporters in Naypyidaw.

While in opposition, the NLD held nationwide campaigns with the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society to amend Section 436, which restricts further amendments to the Constitution.

The section requires that at least 75 percent of lawmakers approve proposed amendments to much of the Constitution, a difficult feat in a Parliament that guarantees 25 percent of seats to the military.

“Constitutional amendments will mean a positive turn in civil-military relations. There must be negotiations and compromises between the forces,” said U Aye Maung.

“The Parliament under the previous government had tried to amend it but it didn’t happen. Shouldn’t the current Parliament give it a try?” he added, referring to parliamentary votes proposed by an NLD lawmaker in June 2015.

The votes posited to trim the share of ballots required to amend the Constitution to 70 percent and amend a constitutional clause that bars anyone whose spouse or children are from foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband and two sons are British citizens. Both votes were rejected.

U Aye Maung said the Constitution cannot guarantee self-determination and equality for Burma’s ethnicities.

“We have to try to amend the 2008 Constitution if we want to establish a genuine Union,” he said.

“Our party has a policy to try to amend the Constitution within the legal framework within five years,” Dr. Soe Win Oo, vice chairman of the NLD Rangoon Division chapter, told The Irrawaddy. “Given the situation of the country, we have to take careful steps, taking everything into account.”

NLD chairperson and State Counselor. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has also suggested amending the Constitution within the legal framework in a way that least impacts “national reconciliation.”

The country has had three Constitutions: the first was drafted in 1947 and used from Burma’s independence in 1948 to 1962, when the regime under dictator Ne Win suspended it.

Ne Win became president at the time the second Constitution was introduced in 1974. The military-based State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) suspended the 1974 Constitution in 1988 and Burma remained without a Constitution until 2008. The 2008 Constitution has been widely criticized for being undemocratic.

Lower House speaker U Win Myint told reporters last year that the Constitution could be amended only after peace is achieved in the country.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.