Parliament Puts Controversial Defense Bill on Hold

By The Irrawaddy 7 January 2016

RANGOON — A National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) bill criticized for its potential to increase the power of the military over civilian lawmakers will not be considered during in the current session of Parliament.

Khin Aung Myint, a member of the NDSC as well as Speaker of the Upper House, told reporters outside Parliament on Monday that there is not enough time to discuss the bill this term, set to expire on Jan. 31.

“Whether or not the MPs of the newly elected Parliament discuss it is up to them,” he said.

The NDSC bill, a draft of which was obtained by The Irrawaddy, has stirred heated debate since it was distributed to Upper House lawmakers in Naypyidaw in late December.

Aside from the right to cast a deciding vote in the event of a deadlock, the president is stripped of other voting abilities on council matters by Article 14 of the bill. The article also stipulates that the council must reach a consensus on decisions or accept a majority vote if this is not possible.

Burma’s 2008 Constitution, drafted by the military, gives an 11-member council the power to make policy on certain military and security issues. Moreover, the NDSC can implement conscription policies, approve amnesties at the president’s request and call on the president to declare a nationwide state of emergency.

If this happens, the government’s normal executive, judicial and legislative functions are suspended and transferred to the commander-in-chief. Elections can also be put off for a period of up to 12 months.

The military has six members on the council, already giving it a majority. Other members include the president, two vice presidents, both Union Parliament speakers, the commander-in-chief and deputy commander of the Burma Armed Forces, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the military-appointed ministers of Home Affairs, Border Affairs and Defense.