NLD Urges Military to Cooperate on Charter Amendment

By Htet Naing Zaw 7 February 2019

NAYPYITAW—The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has invited the Myanmar military to cooperate on forming a joint committee to draft amendments to the Constitution in the Union Parliament.

Speaking to reporters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday, NLD Central Executive Committee member U Aung Kyi Nyunt said that while the military (or Tatmadaw) is responsible for safeguarding the Constitution, if it is willing to acknowledge the political and historical reality and global trends, it should join hands to amend it.

“[The Army] should cooperate. I think military representatives should also have their say in the debate on constitutional amendment. And they should take this opportunity to have their say,” said U Aung Kyi Nyunt, who last week submitted the urgent proposal to form the committee.

Over strong opposition from military representatives, nearly 67 percent of Union Parliament lawmakers voted on Wednesday to form the committee.

Parliament approved the formation of the committee with 414 votes in favor, 191 opposed and six abstentions.

Following the vote, Speaker U T Khun Myat announced that the committee would be chaired by Deputy Speaker U Tun Tun Hein, comprise an equal number of lawmakers from both houses of Parliament, and include military representatives and independents.

Tatmadaw commander-in-chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing has insisted that the military has never said it would not amend the country’s Constitution.

In response to media questions, he said at a military exercise in Mandalay Region on Jan. 31 that the Myanmar Army agrees with the idea of amending the Constitution, but believes it must be done systematically.

Brigadier-General Maung Maung, who leads military representatives in Parliament, told reporters they have not yet decided whether to join the committee.

“There is a need to review the political, social and economic landscape, and the demands of ethnic people, in order to decide what changes are needed,” Brig-Gen. Maung Maung said.

The Tatmadaw wants to see the process carried out in line with the procedures of Parliament, and has insisted that a draft law of proposed constitutional amendments be submitted to Parliament for debate first, before the formation of a committee to proceed with the amendments.

Lawmaker U Thaung Aye of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has accused the NLD of attempting to gain political advantage through submitting the proposal.

NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt explained that his proposal to form the committee represented an all-inclusive approach that, if it proceeds, will ensure that any outcome will be recognized as the result of cooperation from all parties.

“Rather than having a raging debate in Parliament after submitting a draft law, if representatives of all sides come together and draft the law through consultation, there will be less friction and opposition in Parliament. We submitted it with the best intention, so that the Constitution is amended without anyone having have to lose face,” U Aung Kyi Nyunt said.

The Tatmadaw did not object when general-turned-lawmaker U Aye Myint of the USDP submitted a proposal to form a committee to review the constitution under U Thein Sein’s administration.

In a petition drive in the ensuing months, millions of signatures were garnered in support of constitutional amendment.