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Military MPs in Burma’s parliament will not support any proposal to amend Article 436, according to a report submitted by the Constitution Amendment Implementation Committee on Wednesday.
Committee secretary Aye Mauk told DVB that a survey conducted for the report indicated that military parliamentarians in both houses have overwhelmingly indicated that they do not support changing or repealing Articles 436 (a) and (b), which stipulate that any constitutional amendment requires the approval of 75 percent of parliament. Critics, which include the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), say that the clause is undemocratic because it provides the military – which is appointed 25 percent of parliamentary seats – veto power on any proposed amendments.
“The military MPs have overwhelmingly expressed the opinion that they wish to keep Article 436 as it is written now,” said Aye Mauk.
“We still don’t know what the outcome of parliamentary debate will be, because the military MPs, while asserting that they will not support changing Article 436, have indicated an agreement to amend, repeal abolish or replace many of the 210 of 457 constitutional articles proposed by the Committee for amendment.
Earlier this year, the NLD launched a public awareness campaign calling for support to amend Article 436. The campaign was spearheaded by party chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi, who canvassed the country urging the public to support the proposal and collecting up to 5 million signatures.
“There’s quite a lot to say about this [Constitution Amendment Implementation Committee] report and MPs will speak out when the time comes,” said Suu Kyi, who was mobbed by reporters at the parliament building in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.
NLD MP Win Htein said the party’s efforts to amend the constitution will not stop.
“The effort to amend the constitution will not stop here. If we don’t succeed at this juncture, we’ll keep trying and explore other avenues,” he said.
“We refused to take part in the 2010 elections because we did not support the 2008 Constitution. However we later agreed to participate in the by-elections as we established some common ground during talks between President U Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. After being elected to the parliament, our lawmakers have worked together with Thein Sein government while expressing our objections and criticisms on matters we don’t agree with.”
Perhaps the sorest sticking point in the NLD’s campaign for constitutional reform is Article 59(f), which effectively bars Suu Kyi from running for the presidency due to her children and spouse having foreign citizenship.
House Speaker Shwe Mann urged MPs on Wednesday to debate the constitutional amendment proposal with “positive attitudes” and with an emphasis on “the stability and development of the country; national unity and reconciliation; peace; rule of law; democratic transition; and the interests of the nation and its citizens.”