Burma

Constitution Amendment Supporters Rally in Cities Nationwide

By San Yamin Aung 17 July 2019

YANGON—Thousands of people rallied in several major cities across the country on Wednesday to show their support for the Union Parliament’s Charter Amendment Committee, which the military has denounced as “unconstitutional.”

Public rallies were held two days after the committee submitted a report of its findings to Parliament after nearly five months of reviewing the entire charter for possible amendments. The report included more than 3,700 recommendations for various changes to provisions of the Constitution, suggesting amendments, additions and/or repeals.

The proposed changes were put forward by the ruling National League for Democracy and several ethnic political parties on the committee for reducing the role of the military and its Commander-in-chief in politics, decentralizing state power and ensuring equality and the rule of law for all citizens.

Supporters marched in cities in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Bago and Tanintharyi regions and in Shan State, where they held posters declaring their support for the committee’s report and calling for amendments to the military-drafted Constitution.

In Yangon, the rally was joined by lawyers, activists and writers, and petitions were collected for charter reforms.

“Even if all 75 percent of elected representatives agree to amend the Constitution, they can’t [amend it] if the 25 percent of military representatives in Parliament don’t agree. Is it fair? They are bullying us with that green book [the Constitution],” writer Daung Hman Hone told demonstrators at a rally in front of the city hall in downtown Yangon.

“We would like to admire the military, but [in order to do that], amend the Constitution,” he said.

The committee—comprised of 45 representatives from 14 political parties, including from independents and from the military’s 25-percent bloc in Parliament—was formed in February over strong objections from the military and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Unlike other party representatives, military representatives on the committee made no proposals over the committee’s many meetings, standing with their original stance that they disapproved the formation of the committee to begin with because “it breached the constitutional rules,” thus making all committee procedures unconstitutional.

Parliament will discuss the committee’s report in the coming weeks. After, the committee will draft an amending bill to the Constitution.

Brigadier-General Maung Maung, leader of the military-appointed lawmakers in Parliament, told reporters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday that attempting to amend several articles of the Constitution is dangerous.

“We haven’t decided whether to join parliamentary discussions over [the committee’s report] or not, but since the beginning we’ve opposed it…As you all see, there are 3,765 proposed changes. If we look at those, we can see how much those are harmful for our country’s constitution,” he said.

Meanwhile, nationalists in Yangon also staged a protest against amending the Constitution’s Articles 59(f) and Article 436. The former bars a person whose spouse and children are foreign citizens from becoming president—the article used to bar Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Under Article 436, any constitutional change requires the approval of more than 75 percent of all lawmakers, giving the 25-percent military bloc de facto veto power over any amendments.

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