Constitutional reform begins at Chapter One

Constitutional reform begins at Chapter One

The highest number of recommendations sent to the parliament’s Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution (JCRC) suggested amending Chapter One of the constitution, according to a press statement by the joint-committee.

The JCRC in October called on the executive, judicial and legislative sectors, as well as political parties, civil society groups and individuals, to send in suggestions on amending the 2008 constitution.

According to a press release issued by the JCRC on 6 December, the committee said that as of 5 December it had received 440 letters with a total of 2,512 recommendations, 590 of which suggested amendments to Chapter One: Basic Principles of the Union.

However, the statement gave no indication of which articles within Chapter One the suggestions had targeted. Basic Principles of the Union is a far-reaching document, which lays out principles for everything from the name of the country to sovereignty and governance to the role of the military.

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Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have been campaigning to make amendments to a particular clause, Article 59(f), which bars Suu Kyi from becoming president. Article 59(f) is under Chapter Three: Head of State.

Chapter Three had 261 suggestions for changes, the JCRC said.

Zaw Myint Maung, a lower house MP and JCRC member, said the committee has yet to formally review the recommendations. The JCRC is expected to release a comprehensive report on the recommendations early next year.

“For now, the committee is detailing only the chapters of the recommendations it has received,” he said.

Lawyer Aung Thein of the NLD, a member of the opposition party’s Constitution Amendment Committee, said the constitution’s Chapter One: Basic Principles of the Union is a fundamental part of the constitution and thus must be amended.

“Chapter One is an underlying part of the constitution and its amendment should be the starting point for the amendment of the whole constitution.”

To date, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, the NLD and the Burmese military have not yet sent in their recommendations to the JCRC.

The deadline for submitting recommendations is 31 December.

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