Ninety-nine percent of the recommendations submitted to a parliamentary review committee support Constitutional reform, the committee revealed, as their long-awaited report was presented to Burma’s Parliament.
The Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution (JCRC) was created to assess the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, which has come under intense scrutiny since Burma’s 2011 political handover. The JCRC called upon legal experts, civil society, government Ministries and the general public to submit recommendations for the contentious document.
By the 31 January deadline, the committee fielded over 28,000 submissions, many containing various recommendations. Only 367 proposals opposed amending the charter while a crippling 41,391 supported change.
According to the report, 47 recommendations were against amending the Constitution’s Chapter 1: Basic Principals of the Union, and 27,148 in favour.
The Chapter contains an oft-criticised article — 6(a) — which deems military participation in the national politics a constant objective of the union. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has frequently denounced the Chapter during a recent bout of nationwide rallies geared towards garnering support for Constitutional reform.
Chapter 12: Amendment of the Constitution, received 5,864 recommendations favouring amendment and zero against. Article 436(a) effectively preserves specific parts of the charter, requiring approval by more than 75 percent of Union Parliament and more than 50 percent of votes in a nationwide referendum for amendment. The added requirement of referendum votes notably refers to – among other clauses — Article 59(f), which prevents Suu Kyi’s presidential bid. That particular clause received 5,883 calls for amendment.
Legal experts say that the 75 percent rule effectively blocks constitutional changes without military approval, as they are granted 25 percent of the legislative body.
The JCRC largely comprised of ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party members, also presented a proposal urging Parliament to prioritise amendments that could settle disagreements about the centralisation of power and possibly grant autonomy for some ethnic nationalities.
Ye Htun, MP for the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, said the report could signal a bright future for ethnic rights.
“The report said that it is necessary to amend the 2008 Constitution to really create a democratic approach to ethnic unity,” he said.