The Parliamentary Battle over Amending the Constitution
By The Irrawaddy 18 March 2019
YANGON—On Jan. 29, Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) initiated an attempt to democratize the military-drafted Constitution by proposing in Parliament the formation of a joint committee on charter amendment. Over the past month-and-a-half, as the joint committee has begun reviewing the entire Constitution chapter by chapter, its work has been the subject of heated debate and an increase in political tensions between the NLD and military lawmakers, who see safeguarding the Constitution as their main role. Joining the military appointees in their opposition to reform has been the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), formed by ex-generals.
As Parliament is now in recess, we take this opportunity to round up a collection of our recent stories, including opinions and interviews, about the parliamentary conflict between the NLD, the military and the USDP; opponents’ warnings against charter reform; views on how much reform is possible and the progress being made; and a breakdown of articles the NLD will likely target for amendment.
Editorials & Commentaries
Will the military abide by U Than Shwe’s pledge to allow reform after ‘a few years’ of the party’s rule?
A look at those articles of the Constitution the NLD is most likely to target for amendment first—and why.
The NLD had no choice but to force the military to engage with constitutional reform in Parliament
The NLD’s move to amend the Constitution is a first small step in what will surely be a difficult journey.
A detailed breakdown of the chapters and articles most likely to be targeted for reform by the government
The Irrawaddy breaks down the constitutional reform committee’s path to approval in graphics and numbers.
Interviews & Dateline
The Irrawaddy interviews U Aung Kyi Nyunt, the NLD lawmaker who proposed in Parliament this week for a committee to be formed to work on changing the troublesome 2008 Constitution.
The Irrawaddy recently spoke with a number of ethnic politicians and political analysts for their views on the military’s resistance to the NLD’s attempts at constitutional changes.
While ethnic minority parties want chief ministers elected by local lawmakers, they are concerned that it could end up giving even more power to the military.
Opposition lawmakers, the military and officials of the former government have had plenty to say about the NLD’s move to begin charter change.
SNLD chief skeptical that NLD’s charter reform can succeed; he adds that Myanmar is ‘too weak’ to reject China’s BRI plans
The Irrawaddy discusses the NLD’s proposal to form a committee to draft amendments to Myanmar’s undemocratic Constitution and the prospects for genuine reform.
This week, The Irrawaddy discusses the Tatmadaw’s strongly negative initial reactions to the NLD’s constitutional reform bid.
This week, The Irrawaddy discusses the likelihood and potential scope of constitutional amendments among a divided government.
Ruling party lawmaker set to ask Parliament to form joint committee to consider changes to military-drafted charter
Tense scenes inside Parliament as military lawmakers challenge Speaker over legality of move
Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said the Constitution, which gives the military veto power over any changes, should be amended “when it is necessary.”
Military a Possible No Show For Parliament Debate on Amending Constitution
“If we participate in the debate, it would be interpreted that we approve the proposal,” one military lawmaker said.
Of the 30 lawmakers who joined Tuesday’s debate on whether to form the committee, only five — all from the military-backed USDP — objected.
36 lawmakers scheduled to take part, but not a single military appointee is among them
Nearly 67 percent of lawmakers voted to form the committee, which will be chaired by Parliament Deputy Speaker U Tun Tun Hein.
Ruling party proposed forming a committee so that no side would lose face, NLD lawmaker says.
Tatmadaw appointees and USDP lawmakers have opposed the proposed committee structure which suggests representation according to Parliament proportion.
“If those parties and that institution do not submit name lists, we can exclude them…. But we won’t do that,” NLD lawmaker U Myat Nyana Soe said.
USDP and military representatives in Parliament have opposed the proportional breakdown of the proposed committee for amending Myanmar’s disputed Constitution.
The military-backed USDP wants just one change to the charter, and it has nothing to do with curbing the special privileges it grants the armed forces.
Tatmadaw’s political role safeguards transition to democracy, Sen-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing tells Asahi Shimbun
“Because our country is in a strategic position, it could become a battleground if a wrong position is taken. It is necessary to be aware of this,” Brig. Gen. Maung Maung said.
Senior military leaders said any report by the charter amendment committee would be incomplete and warned there would be consequences if constitutional rules were breached.
Party seeks to reassure public as military steps up opposition to changes to ‘essence’ of Constitution
Military lawmakers have stood in disagreement with the suggestion that the USDP’s lesser charter amendment proposal be discussed by the NLD-formed Charter-Amendment Panel.
Committee members reviewed the first 14 articles of the Constitution, including a clause guaranteeing the military a role in politics, but declined to discuss what was said.
The ruling NLD denied the claim, in turn accusing the military-backed USDP of using religion and nationalism for its own political ends.
U Thaung Aye told Parliament that a committee now discussing potential amendments to the Constitution should be abolished because it was in violation of the law.
The ruling party proposed the constitutional amendment during a meeting of the joint committee now reviewing the military-drafted charter for possible changes.
Military and ANP lawmakers said plans to let a special committee vet a proposal to have regional chief ministers elected violates the law or would unnecessarily delay reform.
Click here to learn more about previous controversies surrounding the charter, dating back to its promulgation in 2008.