Two Myanmar Constitution Amendment Bills Agreed by NLD, Ethnic Parties

By San Yamin Aung 20 January 2020

YANGON — Myanmar’s parliamentary committee tasked with proposing changes to the 2008 Constitution has finished drafting two amendment bills.

Nearly 30 members from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and various ethnic parties on the committee approved the amendment bills on Monday. But all military representatives on the committee were absent from the meeting, said the committee’s secretary U Myat Nyana Soe, an Upper House lawmaker from the NLD.

The Constitution Amendment Committee — the mechanism that the NLD and ethnic parties chose for reforming the military-drafted Constitution — was formed last February with 45 members from 14 political parties, independent representatives and members of the military bloc in Parliament.

The NLD holds 18 seats on the committee, the military has eight and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was given two.

The USDP, Arakan National Party and the National United Democratic Party quit the committee late last year. The military rejected the existence of the committee and its works as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the military members submitted two amendment bills and three bills jointly with the USDP to the Parliament last year.

U Myat Nyana Soe said the two new bills came from 11 months of discussion within the committee.

He says he hopes the military will participate in the parliamentary discussions on the bills.

The two bills will be forwarded to the speaker on Thursday.

The first bill includes amendments that would be covered by Article 436(a), requiring approval by more than 75 percent of Parliament and over 50 percent support in a referendum. The second bill includes measures covered by Article 436 (b), requiring the approval of over 75 percent of Parliament but no referendum.

“The military was absent from the committee. Our stance is that we want to amend the Constitution,” said Lower House lawmaker Lama Naw Aung of the Kachin State People’s Party, who is on the committee.

He added that he was satisfied with the committee’s step towards amending the Constitution.

Yan Kyin Kan, a Lower House MP for the Kokang Democracy and Unity Party, endorsed the two bills.

“No country’s constitution is perfect the first time. We need to amend the charter to continue the country’s transition to democracy,” he said.

But the committee member said he feared the committee’s efforts to amend the Constitution depended on key players’ willingness to reform, referring to the military’s veto over constitutional change.

The military members hold 25 percent of parliamentary seats and can prevent significant amendments.

With contributions from Kyaw Myo in Naypyitaw