NLD Proposal to End Immunity for Myanmar’s Ex-Military Govt Fails to Pass in Charter Vote

By San Yamin Aung 20 March 2020

YANGON—A proposal by Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to end constitutional impunity for members of the former junta failed to pass on Friday, falling short of the required support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers in Parliament.

The 2008 Constitution drafted by the then military regime effectively shields the generals and any members of its military government from future legal prosecution for human rights violations.

Article 445, in the “Transitory Provisions” chapter of the Constitution, states, “No proceeding shall be instituted against the said Councils (the State Law and Order Restoration Council-SLORC and the State Peace and Development Council-SPDC) or any member thereof or any member of the Government, in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”

Known first as the SLORC and later as the SPDC, the military government ruled Myanmar from 1988 to 2011, a period that saw Western sanctions imposed on the military regime over its abysmal human rights record. The SPDC was officially dissolved on March 30, 2011, with the inauguration of the newly elected government led by its former member and prime minister, U Thein Sein.

During the parliamentary debates over charter reform in late February and early March, the military-appointed lawmakers strongly objected to the NLD’s proposal to remove Article 445.

Military-appointed lawmakers cast their ballots on constitutional amendments on March 11. / Thiha Lwin / The Irrawaddy

On Friday, when the Parliament voted on it, 408 lawmakers—or 62.3 percent—voted in favor of the proposal and 218 against. In Parliament, the military-backed former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party has 41 seats and the military is constitutionally allocated 166 seats.

To complement Article 445 of the Constitution, in January 2016, just before his term was about to end, then-President U Thein Sein enacted the President Security Bill guaranteeing him lifetime personal security and legal immunity from prosecution over any of the actions taken during his term.

NLD proposals calling for a change to the national flag and the removal of all provisions under the Transitory Provisions Chapter were also rejected on Friday.

New flag suggested by NLD (left). The current flag (right) was introduced under the 2008 Constitution. / The Irrawaddy

From March 10-20, the Union Parliament voted on 135 proposed constitutional amendments, 114 of which were submitted by the NLD and ethnic parties, mainly seeking to reduce the special powers and privileges granted to the military under the charter. Almost all of the charter reforms failed to pass, with only four minor changes receiving the required support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers, or at least 491 MPs.

The approved amendments will change Burmese-language references to “disabled military officers” in three provisions, and remove language deemed unnecessary from a charter provision on the appointment of state and regional ministers.

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