Six-Party Talks Due Late This Week

By The Irrawaddy 7 April 2015

RANGOON — Discussions on constitutional reform involving leaders from the government, military, Parliament, political opposition and an ethnic minority representative have been scheduled for Friday, according to an ethnic politician who will join the so-called “six-party talks” this week.

Aye Maung, the Arakan National Party chairman selected to represent ethnic minorities’ interests at the dialogue, told The Irrawaddy that Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann announced the April 10 sit-down during a meeting with representatives from political parties at Parliament on Monday.

“He announced the date and told us to make preparations for the talks that will be held in Naypyidaw at noon on April 10, while providing no other details,” Aye Maung said.

The Arakanese leader said it was the first time the government had revealed the exact date of talks to discuss reform of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution since the Union Parliament passed a resolution in November that urged the convening of a six-party dialogue. Parliament’s proposal, apparently to be realized this week, sought a meeting involving President Thein Sein, Burma Army commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing, parliamentary speakers Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Aye Maung.

In another resolution by Parliament, Thein Sein was urged on Jan. 22 to initiate the proposed six-party discussion as soon as possible.

Last month, the Lower House leader Shwe Mann told political leaders in Naypyidaw that six-party talks pushed for by lawmakers would be held within days, after holding a private meeting with the National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi has been advocating for four-party talks between the president, the army commander in chief, Shwe Mann and herself, a proposal rejected by the government as “not all-inclusive.”

To date, Thein Sein has held two meetings involving 14 and 48 political leaders, respectively, for constitutional talks that have yielded little in the way of tangible progress on the matter.

Legislation on holding a public referendum concerning constitutional reform is due to be finalized during the current parliamentary session.

“They seem to realize that they have to talk,” Aye Maung said. “Without the six-party talks, the bill for amending the Constitution can’t be submitted to the Union Parliament, they all know. If not, there will be chaos in the Union Parliament with pro- and anti-factions on amending the Constitution.”