Nationalists Plan Rally in Defense of Article 59(f)

By San Yamin Aung 23 February 2016

RANGOON — A group of Buddhist nationalists plan to hold a rally in the coming days in support of Article 59(f) of Burma’s Constitution, which bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

Win Ko Ko Latt, of the Myanmar Nationalist Network, told The Irrawaddy that the ambition of the rally, planned for Rangoon’s Bo Sein Hman grounds, is in defense of 59(f), which precludes anyone with a foreign spouse or children from assuming the presidency, disqualifying Suu Kyi, whose two children are British nationals, as was her late husband.

Article 59(b) of the military-drafted charter states that the president and vice president should be Burmese citizens whose parents were born in Burma. Rally organizers are aiming to keep both articles intact.

“We believe these two sections should be present. We heard that the amendment or suspension of Article 59(f) would be discussed in the Parliament to allow Suu Kyi to become president. We’re worried that would stop Parliament and lead to a military coup,” Win Ko Ko Latt said.

As negotiations between the NLD and the military continue behind closed doors, one notion first floated late last year centers on the possible suspension of the clause. Opinions are divided on whether this has currency, with several military representatives expressing their opposition to such a move.

On Tuesday, Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing appeared to hose down suggestions of any moves to sidestep the charter in the near-term.

“[N]ecessary provisions should be amended at an appropriate time in accordance with the chapter XII of the constitution,” Min Aung Hlaing said, according to the military-run Myawaddy newspaper, as reported by Reuters.

Win Ko Ko Latt said the group is currently seeking permission from authorities to hold the rally on Feb. 28 and added that they anticipate collecting a petition with some 1,000 signatures. Former Upper House lawmaker Khin Wine Kyi, lawyer Aye Paing and chairman of the Peace and Diversity Party Nay Myo Wai are scheduled to give speeches at the rally.

The Myanmar Nationalist Network, as well as some rally speakers, includes supporters of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, which pushed for contentious race and religion protection laws last year.

Organizers contend however that they are not against Suu Kyi leading the country.

“We aren’t objecting to Suu Kyi becoming president. We heard that her two sons and their spouses can seek Burmese citizenship. If Suu Kyi were to become the president in that way, without touching the article, we could accept that,” Win Ko Ko Latt said.

Outgoing Minister of Information Ye Htut suggested exactly that in an interview with Voice of America last week, though the minister’s comment was largely seen as disingenuous.