Thein Sein Tells New Lawmakers: Abide by the Constitution

By San Yamin Aung 8 February 2016

RANGOON — In a letter to the Union Parliament, outgoing president Thein Sein has called on Burma’s newly minted lawmakers, overwhelmingly members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), to abide by the Constitution in dealing with the country’s laws.

The new Parliament convened on Feb. 1 with the start of a Lower House session, and it was followed two days later by an Upper House session.

In the letter sent on Monday, Thein Sein said that he hopes lawmakers will be able to serve the interests of the country and citizens, as well as promote peace, stability and the rule of law, by staying in line with the Constitution.

“Because the Union Parliament, [Burma’s] highest legislative body, has pledged to protect the Constitution and abide by the laws of the country, I hope that it will do so in enacting new laws and amending and annulling old ones,” Thein Sein said in the letter.

Political commentator Yan Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy the president’s letter was probably issued in light of recent speculation the NLD may seek to suspend Article 59(f) of the charter which effectively bars Suu Kyi from the presidency.

The article disqualifies anyone with a foreign spouse or children from becoming president, and both of Suu Kyi’s sons are British nationals, as was her late husband.

“I assume it [the letter] is advising lawmakers to abide by the constitutional amendment chapter in talks to amend, suspend or add an exception to Article 59(f),” Yan Myo Thein said.

Chapter 12 of the Constitution, which lays out the process of proposing and adopting constitutional amendments, stipulates that more than 75 percent of lawmakers must approve major amendments, effectively guaranteeing the army, which commands 25 percent of parliamentary seats, a veto over charter change.

Major amendments also require a nationwide referendum, with the amendment carried if it receives a “yes” vote from more than half of the eligible voter population.