Parliament Approves Committee to Draft Amendments to Constitution

By San Yamin Aung 6 February 2019

YANGON — Nearly 67 percent of Union Parliament lawmakers voted Wednesday morning to form a committee to draft amendments to Myanmar’s undemocratic Constitution.

Parliament approved the formation of the committee with 414 votes in favor, 191 opposed and six abstentions. Though it was a secret ballot, the 31 percent who voted against the motion were likely military representatives appointed by the army chief, who hold 25 percent of the seats, and members of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), who hold 5 percent.

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.

U Tun Tun Hein, 70, the former lawyer, was elected deputy speaker in March 2018.

U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a lawmaker for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), introduced an urgent proposal to Parliament to form the committee “as soon as possible” on Jan. 29. The military lawmakers objected to the proposal and boycotted the parliamentary debate on the motion on Tuesday.

Thirty lawmakers from the NLD, USDP and some ethnic minority parties did join the debate. All but the five USDP lawmakers who joined in endorsed the proposal and offered suggestions on what form it should take. The USDP lawmakers strongly objected to the motion.

The Constitution, drafted by the then-ruling military junta in 2008, has been widely criticized as undemocratic. It reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats — both regionally and nationally — for the military and gives the army chief the power to appoint the ministers of defense, home affairs and border affairs. The army can also select one of the country’s three vice-presidents.

Amending the charter also requires approval from more than 75 percent of the total lawmakers in Parliament, effectively giving the military a veto over any proposed changes.