NUP calls for constitution to be amended, not re-written

NUP calls for constitution to be amended, not re-written

The National Unity Party (NUP), which was formed by the military junta in 1988, insisted on Tuesday that Burma does not need to draft a new constitution, although some provisions could be amended to satisfy the ethnic populations.

The announcement follows months of heated debate over whether Burma should re-write or amend its controversial 2008 constitution, which grants the military 25 percent of seats in parliament and excludes opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

Speaking to DVB after an event marking the party’s 25th anniversary, Central Executive Committee member Thein Htun defended the legislation and dismissed suggestions that it should be scrapped.

“We aim to work for the development of our nation within a political framework based on the 2008 constitution,” he said. “We don’t see that it is necessary to completely rewrite the constitution to improve it but should only amend certain points prioritising the interests of the ethnic nationalities and the public.”

At the event, which was held at the NUP’s headquarters in Rangoon on 24 September, the party also released a statement calling for Burma to become a “peaceful and developed” democratic nation based on the 2008 constitution.

Earlier this week, Suu Kyi slammed the 2008 legislation as “undemocratic” and insisted that it must be amended ahead of the 2015 general elections. However, she has yet to clarify whether the National League for Democracy (NLD) will back a complete overhaul of the document or focus on specific sections.

In the past, she has focused her criticisms on the military’s dominant role in politics, as well as a section which excludes those with foreign marital ties from leading the country – a provision many say was drafted to exclude Suu Kyi, who had a British husband, from becoming president.

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Meanwhile, the United Nationalities Federal Council, an umbrella group made up of major ethnic armed groups, has already outlined plans to completely re-write the constitution in the coming months. Ethnic rebels, who have fought the government for decades, insist the legislation must be guarantee greater ethnic autonomy and rights under a genuine federal framework.

Thein Htun said that although the NUP objects to drafting a new constitution, they support plans to make changes that allow greater self-determination for Burma’s ethnic peoples, which make up roughly 40 percent of the population.

“We see that it is necessary to allow more power for ethnic regions, to decrease power centralisation, to promote regional governance and socio-economic development. In order to do that, chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the 2008 constitution should be reviewed,” said Thein Htun, referring to sections addressing the basic principles of the union, the structure of the state, the head of state and the executive branch.

But the military is guaranteed 25 percent of seats in parliament under chapter 4.

The NUP was created by former dictator Ne Win as a new political front for his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) — which seized power through a military coup in 1962 — to contest the 1990 elections. But Suu Kyi’s party the NLD won by a land-slide and the elections were subsequently annulled by the junta.

The NUP came second, securing only 10 seats. It later won 64 seats in the heavily disputed 2010 general elections, which brought Thein Sein to power.

The NUP event on Tuesday was joined by over 700 guests including representatives from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the Democratic Party-Myanmar. The NLD, although apparently invited to the event, did not turn up.

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