Some 300 people attended a rally calling for constitutional reform on Monday in the Chin State capital of Hakha, the latest campaign stop by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS).
In a bid to push the government of Burma’s President Thein Sein towards constitutional reform, the NLD has embarked on a nationwide tour to rally for support. 88GPOS – an organisation formed by students who led the 1988 anti-government uprising – has joined the NLD’s cause in recent months, and the two parties have focused their efforts on Article 436. This clause calls for more than 75 percent of the parliament to vote on any constitutional amendments, which is deemed undemocratic by the opposition groups as the Burmese military presently holds 25 percent and thus has veto power over any proposed changes.
After moving the rally to the NLD’s head office in Hakha – a relocation prompted by the authorities’ refusal to allow the event at the town hall – NLD and 88GPOS members took the stage to urge locals to sign a petition to their cause.
NLD’s regional leader, Zo Bwe, told DVB after the rally that he pointed out the contradictions within the current Constitution, such as Article 4, which states that the sovereign power of the country comes from its citizens, and Article 436, which blocks any amendment attempt without support from the military.
“I explained to the crowd that Article 436 is intended to make it far too difficult — near impossible – to enact amendments to the constitution,” Zo Bwe said.
An amendment to Article 436 could open up the dissolution of Article 59(f), a clause that prevents Burmese citizens with foreign relatives from running for the presidency. Presently, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to a British man and has two children, is effectively banned from running for president in the November 2015 national elections.
From Hakha, the NLD and 88GPOS will move to the town of Mindat next week. During the NLD’s previous visit to Chin State in January, the ruling party instructed civil servants and students not to attend or publicly support the opposition party.