Myanmar Parliament Speaker Rebukes Military, USDP MPs for Charter-Change Comments

By San Yamin Aung 29 November 2019

YANGON—The Speaker of Myanmar’s Union Parliament on Thursday warned lawmakers from the military and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) over comments they made during Tuesday’s debate over a constitutional amendment bill, deeming the remarks abusive and ordering them struck from the parliamentary record.

Speaker U T Khun Myat said on Thursday that remarks by four military-appointed lawmakers—Major Thaung Htike Soe, Major Zin Myo Latt, Captain Than Than Win and Captain Thazin Hlaing—and by USDP lawmaker U Maung Myint, during the debate included comments that were insulting to Parliament and could lead to a misunderstanding about the functions of the legislature.

He said the lawmakers had violated parliamentary rules and ethics.

On Tuesday, seven elected and eight military-appointed lawmakers debated a suggestion by Parliament’s Joint Bill Committee that proposed changes to the Constitution submitted by Brigadier General Maung Maung and 143 other military appointees be reviewed by the Charter Amendment Committee—whose very existence the military appointees have rejected as unconstitutional.

The military and the USDP raised strong objections to the Joint Bill Committee’s suggestion during the debate.

Maj. Thaung Htike Soe said on Tuesday that the Charter Amendment Committee has no clear policies, accusing it of inconsistency and groping for workable policies.

U T Khun Myat said on Thursday that the major’s comments—including his claim that the committee is acting evasively and putting its energies into a misguided effort—slandered the work of a committee formed by Parliament. He said the same was true of comments by Maj. Zin Myo Latt.

Formed in February, the Charter Amendment Committee includes members of 14 political parties, as well as independents and representatives of the military’s 25 percent bloc in Parliament. Tasked with examining the entire military-drafted Constitution to identify provisions with potential for amendment, the committee is currently drafting a constitutional amendment bill. Lawmakers from the Arakan National Party and National United Democratic Party resigned from the committee in September.

The speaker said comments by USDP lawmaker U Maung Myint, who called into question the NLD’s motive for attempting to amend the Constitution, and by Capt. Than Than Win—who said, “[Is the NLD] putting it off, or just doing it for show? Because it has no will to amend [the Constitution]”—were also inappropriate and irrelevant to the topic of the debate.

He also cautioned Capt. Thazin Hlaing over a repeated accusation that a parliamentary committee was engaging in “unlawful acts”.

The remarks by the five lawmakers would be removed from the parliamentary record, U T Khun Myat said.

The constitutional amendment bill submitted by Brig-Gen Maung Maung seeks to add a provision to the Constitution barring 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.

On Thursday, 362 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill committee’s suggestion that the proposed changes be reviewed by the Charter Amendment Committee instead of being reviewed separately by Parliament; 192 lawmakers opposed the motion.