June 13, by Yain Tai
A Shan politician is questioning why the National League for Democracy has fallen silent on constitutional amendment. As an opposition party, the NLD led the campaign to change the 2008, military-drafted charter.
Shan State Hluttaw MP Sai Linn Myat raised the issue during a recent meeting between Shan State parliamentarians and the Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker in Taunggyi’s City Hall.
“[The Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker] said the 2008 Constitution will only be amended after we achieve peace. In my opinion, the 2008 Constitution is the only reason why we can’t achieve peace,” Sai Linn Myat, a politician from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told the media following the June 10 meeting.
“I think we need to consider whether the 2008 Constitution is an obstacle to the emergence of a democratic federal Union, which is desired by the public.”
During the meeting, Speaker U Win Myint urged MPs to ensure the questions and proposal they submit to parliament are in line with the derided 2008 Constitution.
“We didn’t say that we won’t amend it, but we also didn’t say that we would amend it immediately after we won [the election],” he said, when pressed about the NLD’s timeline for redrafting the charter.
“Internal peace is our second priority [after rule of law], and constitutional amendment is our third priority. We understand that it can only be amended after we have secured mutual understanding and trust. We can’t amend it as soon as we’d like due to restrictions stipulated in Section 435 (a) and (b) of Chapter 12 in the 2008 Constitution,” he added, referring to a section that calls for constitutional amendments to be submitted to the hluttaw and approved only if it secures more than 75% of the vote. The military’s guaranteed 25% parliamentary bloc ensures veto power.
In 2014, then-opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that without constitutional amendment, Myanmar’s democratic transition is only “window-dressing”. Later that same year, the NLD launched a petition calling for changes to section 436, the clause empowering a military a veto, and section 59(f), which bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from holding the presidential office. More than 5 million signatures were gathered and submitted to parliament. The motion stirred public support, but did little to change the charter.
At a press conference called one year ago, Speaker U Win Myint indicated that the constitutional reform would take a backseat while the administration worked on peace and reconciliation.