Parliament Forms Committee to Review Constitution

By The Associated Press 26 July 2013

RANGOON — Burma’s Parliament on Thursday established a committee to review the country’s Constitution to consider changes that could allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president. The changes might also allow ethnic minorities increased self-rule.

The 109-member committee includes lawmakers from all parties in Parliament, including Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and President Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, along with the military’s allotted representatives.

The NLD considers the current Constitution undemocratic because it gives the military a substantial percentage of parliamentary seats and disqualifies Suu Kyi from running for president. Ethnic minority parties seek to elect their own chief ministers in their regions, rather than have them appointed.

Conflict with ethnic minorities seeking greater autonomy has bedeviled democratic and military governments alike since Burma obtained independence from Britain in 1948, and has often involved armed rebellions. Thein Sein’s government is seeking to establish cease-fires and eventually political accords with all of them.

The Constitution was drawn up under the previous military regime to ensure its continuing influence in government. The next election is in 2015.

Since coming to office in 2011, Thein Sein has instituted a series of political and economic reforms after almost five decades of repressive army rule. A major achievement was persuading Suu Kyi’s party to rejoin the electoral process after decades of government repression, and her NLD won 43 of 44 seats it contested in by-elections last year.

State television on Thursday announced a cabinet reshuffle involving 17 positions but signaling no obviously significant changes. The ministers for energy and railways traded portfolios, as did those for industry and labor, while a new national police chief was appointed, the old one retaining his other position as deputy home minister. As is customary, no reason was announced for the changes.