Myanmar Parliament Approves Constitutional Amendment Committee Report

By San Yamin Aung 9 August 2019

YANGON— Myanmar’s Union Parliament on Friday approved the Charter Amendment Committee’s report, which included nearly 4,000 recommendations for various changes to provisions of the nation’s Constitution.

Nearly 66 percent of Union Parliament lawmakers (401) in attendance on Friday voted in support of the report, while 32 percent (197) opposed it.

The vote gives the committee—tasked with making the 2008, military-drafted Constitution democratic—the green light to take the next step of drafting an amending bill to the Constitution.

Union Parliament Deputy Speaker U Tun Tun Hein, who is also a chairman of the Charter Amendment Committee, told lawmakers that the committee will take into consideration their suggestions while drafting the bill.

A total of 41 lawmakers participated in discussions over the report on July 30 and on Aug. 1. During the discussions, the lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party and a majority of representatives from ethnic parties endorsed the report, which included recommendations 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.

Lawmakers from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) objected to the formation of the committee from the beginning, asking for a greater role for the military in Parliament.

“We [the committee] offer much thanks to the lawmakers who openly and clearly discussed the report,” U Tun Tun Hein said.

Military-appointed lawmakers, who from the beginning called the formation of the committee “unconstitutional,” abstained from discussions, and military representatives on the committee made no proposals, insisting all procedures performed by the committee “violate the constitution.”

The committee was formed in February with 45 representatives from 14 political parties, including independents and the military’s 25-percent bloc in Parliament, to review the entire Constitution for possible amendments, submit their findings to Parliament, draft an amending bill and submit that bill to Parliament.

In drafting the bill, the committee may seek suggestions from Union government representatives, the Supreme Court of the Union, judicial organizations, state and regional chief ministers, state and regional parliamentary speakers, ethnic affairs ministers, representatives from self-administered divisions, representatives from ethnicities, political parties and legal experts, according to a statement from Parliament.

However, Article 436 of the Constitution stipulates that amending the Constitution requires the approval of more than 75 percent of all lawmakers and, since the Constitution also grants 25 percent of Parliamentary seats to military-appointed lawmakers, the military retains veto power over any proposed change.

NLD lawmaker U Myat Nyana Soe, committee secretary, told reporters in Naypyitaw on Friday the committee will begin drafting the bill as soon as possible.

He said that, while the first phase consisted of collecting all recommendations for possible amendments from different party representatives, in the drafting process the committee will discuss and decide which of those recommendations should be included in an amendment bill. 

“As everyone, including the Commander-in-Chief, accepts that the Constitution must be amended, we really hope Parliament can fulfill the wishes of public,” he said.

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