Myanmar Parliamentary Committee Finalizes Proposed Changes for Undemocratic Constitution

By San Yamin Aung 14 January 2020

YANGON—The committee in Myanmar’s Parliament tasked with fixing the country’s undemocratic Constitution has finalized its proposals for charter amendments and will submit them to Parliament in two bills later this month.

The Constitution Amendment Committee—formed with 45 members from 14 political parties, independent representatives and members of the military bloc in Parliament—has considered more than 3,700 recommended changes put forward by various political parties.

Committee secretary U Myat Nyana Soe, an Upper House lawmaker for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), said the committee will finish drafting the amendment bill next Monday.

This week, the committee will consider additional suggestions collected last year from the Union government, the Supreme Court of the Union, judicial organizations, state and regional governments and parliaments, ethnic affairs ministers, representatives from self-administered divisions and legal experts.

“We will submit the proposed amendments to the Speaker of the Parliament on Jan. 23,” he said.

He said the committee will submit the proposed amendments to the Constitution in two bills. One bill will include amendments to sections referenced in Article 436 (a), as they must be approved by more than 75 percent of parliament as well as over 50 percent of eligible voters in a nationwide referendum. The second bill will include amendments to all other sections, which, according to Article 436 (b), require the approval of over 75 percent of Parliament but do not require a referendum.

The proposed amendments will be made public after they are submitted to the Parliament, U Myat Nyana Soe added.

The formation of the committee in February last year was the NLD’s first official attempt to amend the Constitution since it took power in 2016. The move has drawn strong resistance from military appointees in Parliament and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), both of whom have rejected the committee and its work as breaching the charter.

The USDP quit the committee in December in a show of disapproval over the committee’s process for drafting the amendments to send to Parliament. The two members from the Arakan National Party and one from the National United Democratic Party also resigned from the committee.

The members who resigned said they were unhappy with the voting system used by the committee to determine which of the proposed changes would be sent to Parliament, given the NLD’s dominance on the committee.

In response, the NLD has said that ethnic parties are also giving their opinions on the proposed changes at committee meetings and that all opinions have been recorded.

Military representatives have said that they took part in committee meetings out of respect for the fact that the Parliament approved the formation of the committee, but that they still object to the committee’s existence. They have made no proposals for amendments. On Monday, however, they didn’t take part the committee meeting.

To counter the committee’s effort to make a raft of changes to the Constitution, military-appointed lawmakers have submitted a total of five bills to amend the Constitution directly to Parliament: two bills on their own and three submitted jointly with the USDP. The Parliament will discuss the military-backed bills along with the committee’s two bills.