Military MPs Oppose Merging Myanmar Charter-Change Proposals

By San Yamin Aung 10 February 2020

YANGON—Military-appointed lawmakers opposed a proposal by the parliamentary Joint Bill Committee on Monday to merge the military’s constitutional amendment bills with those submitted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) for discussion by Parliament.

The Joint Bill Committee is tasked with scrutinizing the constitutional amendment bills—two from the NLD and five from the military and USDP lawmakers—and reorganizing all the bills into two groups. 

The first group will consist of proposed amendments covered by Article 436(a), meaning they require approval by more than 75 percent of Parliament and over 50 percent support in a referendum. The second group would comprise proposed amendments covered by Article 436(b) requiring approval by more than 75 percent of Parliament but no referendum.

The committee’s secretary, Dr. Myat Nyana Soe, said on Monday there are a total of 58 proposals covered by Article 436(a) and 84 proposals covered by Article 436(b) as reorganized by the committee.

Brigadier General Maung Maung and Brigadier General Aung San Chit stood up in Parliament and said they disagreed with the merger of the proposals, asking instead to discuss their bills separately.

Military-appointed lawmaker Brig-Gen Maung Maung talks to reporters in Naypyitaw on Feb. 10. / Thiha Lwin / The Irrawaddy

Rejecting their request, the Speaker warned that, “Now is not the time to debate.”

The military-appointed lawmakers have raised strong objections and resisted all procedures initiated by the NLD to democratize the Constitution since last year.

In January last year, the ruling NLD took its first official step toward amending the Constitution since taking power in 2016, submitting a proposal to form the committee to work on constitutional reform.

Since then, there has been no shortage of confrontations between the NLD and the military appointees in Parliament.

Instead of collaborating with the NLD and the ethnic parties in their push for charter reform, the military MPs chose a parallel path, submitting two amendment bills on their own and three jointly with their ally the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). All the proposals seek to protect the military’s interests.

Brig-Gen Maung Maung told reporters after the parliamentary session on Monday that merging the bills is an NLD attempt to take credit for all of the amendments.

Unlike those submitted by the military and its ally, the NLD’s proposed amendments seek to change the provisions that grant the military special powers and privileges—changes the military is not yet willing to accept.

The Speaker announced that lawmakers wishing to debate the proposed charter amendments must sign up by next Monday evening.

Under the Constitution, proposed amendments must by approved by more than 75 percent of lawmakers, meaning they require at least some support from the military bloc, which holds 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

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