USDP, Military Lawmakers Slam NLD Call for Myanmar to Join Int’l Rights Pact

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 September 2019

NAYPYITAW—The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and military-appointed lawmakers have raised objections to a proposal by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to join the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The mulitlateral treaty commits signatories to respecting the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and the rights to due process and a fair trial.

During a debate in the Lower House of Myanmar’s Union Parliament on Tuesday, the USDP and military lawmakers said NLD lawmaker Daw Thandar had overstepped her authority by submitting such a proposal.

Military lawmaker Lieutenant Colonel Myo Htet Win said it is not the business of a lawmaker to submit such a proposal, because the authority to do so is reserved for the Union President under Article 209 of the 2008 Constitution.

Lt-Col Myo Htet Win also cited articles 66 and 71 in his objection. According to those articles, the President exercises the duties and powers vested in him or her by the Constitution and other laws, and can be impeached if he or she violates the provisions of the Constitution.

For those reasons, the military lawmaker said, Daw Thandar is only authorized to ask the Union government about its plans relating to the covenant, not to directly propose that Myanmar join the pact.

Military lawmakers said the correct procedure regarding international treaties is for the President to submit a proposal to lawmakers along with a detailed report on its pros and cons. After this, the lawmakers can debate whether or not the proposal to join the treaty should be approved.

USDP lawmaker U Thaung Aye compared the ICCPR to a set of instructions to the country’s legislative, executive and judicial sectors, pointing out that because it is concerned with the civil and political rights of the people, the covenant affects all three branches of government.

“Isn’t it [signing the ICCPR] like handing over these three branches of government to the ICCPR in the name of human rights? Is it true that the image of our country will improve if we sign it just because many countries have signed it?” said U Thaung Aye, who is also a former Myanmar army officer.

“We should enhance the image of our country ourselves. The three branches of government belong to the people. They are not things to be handed over to the international community,” he said.

According to lawmakers who spoke during the debate, three other Southeast Asian countries—Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore—also have not signed the ICCPR.

Another NLD lawmaker, Daw Ni Ni May Myint, supported signing the ICCPR so that Myanmar citizens can fully enjoy the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Myanmar citizens do not yet fully enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, she said.

During the debate, seven lawmakers from the NLD argued in support of the proposal, and a USDP lawmaker and four military lawmakers argued against it.

Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin said the government is already taking steps to sign the ICCPR. His request that Parliament record the proposal was accepted.

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