Myanmar Military Eyes More Powers for National Security Council

By San Yamin Aung 20 September 2019

YANGON – Myanmar’s military and the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have jointly proposed giving broader powers to the military-dominated National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), including the power to call for the dissolution of Parliament.

The 145 military-appointed parliamentarians and USDP parliamentarians jointly submitted a constitutional amendment bill to the Union Parliament on Friday.

The bill states that the 11-member NDSC, in which the military holds a majority of six, could suggest the president dissolve Parliament if checks and balances between the legislative and executive deteriorate, or if one-third of parliamentary seats become vacant in either house.

The military parliamentarians’ 25 percent share of Parliament, combined with the seats held by the military-proxy USDP and their allied parties, give the generals control of more than one-third of parliamentary seats.

The proposed amendments would require NDSC meetings once every other month, and require an emergency meeting if five members request one.

The NDSC is Myanmar’s most powerful body when it comes to decision-making on security issues or during emergencies. It includes the president, two vice presidents (one of whom is military-appointed), both parliamentary speakers, the commander-in-chief and deputy commander-in-chief, the minister of foreign affairs and the military-appointed defense, home affairs and border affairs ministers.

The National League for Democracy government has never called an official NDSC meeting since taking office in 2016.

Instead, during crises it has called meetings of many or all of its members along with additional senior figures.

The military-appointed lawmakers also submitted a separate amendment bill to Article 262 and Article 264 of the Constitution to grant state and regional chief ministers the power to appoint or replace their ministers and to decide on the number of ministries.

The Union Parliament’s Joint Bill Committee is due to send its findings on the proposed legislation back to Parliament next month.

On Tuesday, the military-appointed parliamentarians also submitteda constitutional amendment billto bar anyone who has a foreign citizen in their immediate family from becoming a Union minister or chief minister. The move is seen as targeting State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

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