Parliament to Debate Proposal to Form Charter-Amendment Panel

By San Yamin Aung 4 February 2019

YANGON—Myanmar’s Union Parliament will debate a proposal to form a joint committee to work on amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution on Tuesday. None of the military-appointed lawmakers in Parliament—all of whom boycotted last week’s vote to schedule the debate—is scheduled to take part.

According to the Union Parliament, a total of 36 lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), the military-backed, formerly ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and some ethnic parties have registered to join the debate on Tuesday. No military representatives’ names appear on the list of those scheduled to participate in the discussion.

The urgent proposal calling on Parliament “to form the joint committee to facilitate attempts to amend the Constitution as soon as possible” was put forward by NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt on Jan. 29. The unelected military lawmakers—who are appointed by the Army chief and hold one quarter of the seats in Parliament under the Constitution—objected to the proposal. However, a majority of lawmakers voted to approve the debate, defeating the military’s boycott.

Army chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said on Jan. 31 that he had already made his view known that he is not opposed in principle to amending the Constitution. Nonetheless, the military MPs appointed by him sent a formal letter of complaint to the Union Parliament Speaker objecting to the proposal.

Amending the charter requires approval from more than 75 percent of the total lawmakers in Parliament, effectively giving the military a veto over any proposed changes.

U Aung Kyi Nyunt told The Irrawaddy that he proposed forming the committee as a first step, in order to work for constitutional reform transparently and systematically. The senior NLD member said the proposed committee would include lawmakers from all parties as well as the military representatives.

On Sunday, thousands of people marched in Yangon to show their support for the military. The ultranationalist monk U Wirathu was among those joining the demonstration.