Burma

NLD Parliamentarians Unbothered by Military Absence in Charter Amendment Debate

By Moe Moe 30 July 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Tatmdaw’s withdrawal from the parliamentary debate on proposed constitutional amendments will only save parliamentarians time, said Upper House lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

“There won’t be noisy quarrels. One stage of the process may finish quickly and smoothly. If [military lawmakers] join the debate, I am afraid we will have to debate for a long time,” the lawmaker said when asked by reporters what he made of military lawmakers’ decision to withdraw from the debate.

On Tuesday, the Union Parliament began debating a report submitted on July 15 by its Charter Amendment Committee on proposed constitutional amendments. The report includes 3,765 proposed amendments, additions and removals from the Constitution.

Twenty-one lawmakers joined the debate Tuesday.

Over 100 had registered, including 78 military appointees—all of whom withdrew from the debate at the last minute on Monday.

Brigadier-General Maung Maung, who leads military lawmakers in Parliament, declined to comment on the withdrawal.

“I have no comment. We will continue with our plan” he told the media.

“It is up to them whether or not to join the debate. The final part of the report states the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) lawmakers’ position. It is their stance,” said Lower House lawmaker U Thaung Aung of the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The military had raised objections to the formation of the Charter Amendment Committee from the outset, and despite its presence on the committee has not proposed any amendments. Military representatives claim that the charter amendment process violates the Constitution.

Twenty-seven representatives from the USDP, five from the NLD, three each from the Arakan National Party and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and five representing various smaller parties will be participating in the debate.

Before the debate on Tuesday, Parliament Speaker U T Khun Myat urged lawmakers to offer constructive comments and suggestions during the debate.

The NLD holds 59 percent of the seats in Parliament, ethnic parties hold 11 percent, the USDP holds 5 percent and the military holds 25 percent—the latter guaranteed by the current, military-drafted Constitution. Additionally, articles granting the military special privileges require the approval of more than 75 percent of lawmakers to amend the charter, giving the military effective veto power over any amendment.

Translated from the Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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