Tens of thousands of people from all ethnicities and walks of life joined one of the biggest rallies for constitutional reform in Mandalay on Sunday.
At Aung Pin Lae sports ground, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to the huge crowd, many of whom were dressed in red and white and waved National League for Democracy (NLD) flags. She urged the sea of supporters not to accept a leader who doesn’t keep their promises.
“The attitude: ‘We’re always right and so what if we say false things. Are the people even significant? We’ll tell them whatever we want,’ is disrespectful,” the NLD leader said. “Promises made to the people are very important and individuals who cannot keep these promises – I’d just like to put it bluntly – do not have them as your leaders.”
One of the largest rallying calls was to amend Chapter 12’s Article 436 of the Constitution, which states that any amendment to the 2008 charter would need the support of 75 percent of parliament. As the military holds a quarter of those seats they effectively have the power to veto any amendments put forward.
Further constitutional reform would be impossible if the military voted against it, the opposition party says. Therefore NLD leaders are prioritising overturning Article 436.
“Amending any other article in the Constitution can only be done after amending Article 436, which states that any amendments to the Constitution must have approval of 75 percent of MPs. We do not accept that,” said one supporter at the rally.
Sunday’s demonstration was co-organised by the NLD and leading activist group 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS). People travelled from all over central Burma, including Mandalay, Naypyidaw and Sagaing, as well as Karenni and Chin states. Many of them attended the rally, they said, as they felt the current Constitution is undemocratic.
“I wish to see the article  amended because it is not in conformity with democratic standards. As long as the article continues to exist, Burma will never see real democracy. We will have only a superficial democracy that we wear like a mask,” said another supporter of constitutional reform from Ottarathiri Township, Naypyidaw.
Following Sunday’s rally, Suu Kyi met with community leaders and civil society groups in Mandalay urging them to sign a petition to amend Article 436.
On Saturday, 20,000 supporters turned out at Bo Sein Hman park in Rangoon for a rally on constitutional reform, again organised by the NLD and 88GPOS. Saturday’s rally was the first time the two pro-democracy forces have joined hands in co-hosting a public event.
But speaking ahead of the two events, President Thein Sein warned on Thursday that instability caused by the ongoing public campaign to amend the Constitution would harm the country.