UN Rights Envoy: Burma Needs Constitutional Change

By Reform, The Associated Press 26 May 2014

RANGOON — The UN human rights envoy to Burma on Saturday expressed concern over the military’s veto power on constitutional changes, which he said are crucial for the country’s democratic transition and next year’s elections.

Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, who is completing his six-year term this month, said in a statement that the military’s power to block constitutional amendments did not augur well for the 2015 elections. He said there must be civilian oversight over the military.

The 2008 Constitution, drawn up under the previous junta regime, gives the military a mandatory 25 percent parliamentary seats, which is enough to veto any constitutional change and disqualify pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president.

“Constitutional reform in Myanmar is a crucial step in the transition to a more democratic nation,” Quintana said.

Suu Kyi considers the current constitution undemocratic and boycotted the 2010 elections. However, she ran in by-elections in 2012 after changes were made in election laws and won a seat in the lower house of Parliament.

The Nobel laureate has been holding rallies to gain public support and to convince the military and the government to amend the Constitution.

An article in the Constitution says anyone whose spouse or children owes allegiance to a foreign power cannot become president or vice president. Suu Kyi’s sons are British nationals.

Several other provisions are also under scrutiny for revision, and some proposed changes would strengthen self-government in regions of the country dominated by ethnic minorities.

Burma emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011, when former Gen. Thein Sein took office as an elected president.