Myanmar President Reaffirms Commitment to Constitutional Reform

By San Yamin Aung 5 January 2018

YANGON — Myanmar’s President U Htin Kyaw repeated a vow to create a Constitution that upholds democratic standards on the country’s 70th anniversary of independence.

Amid critics pointing out that the National League for Democracy (NLD) has remained silent regarding constitutional reform, the president’s statement on Thursday reaffirms that the government has not swayed from its ultimate goal of rewriting the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

The emergence of a Constitution in line with democratic norms has been a top priority for the NLD. But attempts to amend or replace the current Constitution will be no easy task, as it will put the NLD head-to-head with hardline military generals.

“We all must collaborate to adopt a Constitution suitable for the country as we build a democratic federal Union in accordance with the results of the political dialogues,” President U Htin Kyaw said in his Independence Day message.

He said the government is working on national reconciliation and the peace process aimed at building a democratic state based on the principles of freedom for all ethnic national races, justice, equality and the right to self-determination, calling for the cessation of all armed conflicts and respect for human rights.

Yet, the president did not elaborate as to how the government is working for constitutional reform.

Despite a civilian government assuming power in Myanmar, the constitutional crisis remains a major barrier to the country’s democratic transition.

The military retains a powerful influence under the Constitution.

The military sees its main duty as safeguarding the charter, which guarantees that it maintains an important leadership role. Constitutionally, 25 percent of seats in all national and regional parliaments are reserved for the military. It also holds three key ministerial portfolios—Defense, Home and Border Affairs—and appoints a vice president.

In a statement released on Thursday commemorating the anniversary of independence, the ruling NLD party stated that it wouldn’t be swayed from implementing its election promises including ending long-running civil wars, achieving lasting peace and implementing constitutional change.

It also stated that the Rakhine State crisis has been the biggest blow to its government and has challenged national dignity and sovereignty.

“In spite of some UN agencies and powerful countries criticizing and imposing sanctions against Myanmar as if it is their enemy, we are not nervous, and are responding to them based on reality and practical actions.”