Does Burma’s review of constitution hold hope for Suu Kyi?By Zin Linn Mar 19, 2013 9:19PM UTC
Parliamentarians from Burma’s ruling party on March 15 took the first step towards the possible revision of the constitution which was drawn up under the previous military junta and intentionally vetoes the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.
The constitution says that candidates whose spouses or offspring are citizens of a foreign country shall not run in the presidential and vice-presidential selection. As Suu Kyi’s late husband Michael Aris and their two adult sons are British, people can easily see such clauses are targeted at the opposition leader.
The constitution, which was passed in a rigged and undemocratic 2008 referendum, also sets aside 25% of parliamentary seats for military personnel chosen by the armed forces chief.
As reported in Eleven Media Group’s Sunday news, the revision proposal was submitted as an important issue to the lower house by Thura Aye Myint, vice chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and it was approved without any disagreement. Military appointed parliamentarians also voted in support of the proposal.
“I believe that the 2008 Constitution now requires reviewing according to the current situation of the country though it was written with a good cause for the future of our country,” Thura Aye Myint said at the parliament.
“A committee or commission will be formed comprising of law experts, academics and professionals,” he added.
Since taking office in March 2011, Thein Sein has introduced a series of political and economic reforms after almost five decades of authoritarian rule by military dictatorship. A major reform was giving political space for Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy (NLD) to take part in the by-electoral process through which the NLD won 43 of 44 seats last year.
Although USDP’s MPs submitted a constitutional amendment, it is not expected to meet Suu Kyi’s dream for presidency.
Burma’s current Constitution is inundated with misleading principles. It says the country must be united under one military command. To bring the ethnic groups in line with this, the previous military regime ordered all armed rebel groups to become part of Burma’s border guard force ahead of the 2010 election.
Ethnic minorities have been suffering through five decades of brutal military operations in the name of national unity. Attacks on these rural civilians continue on a regular basis. There is a constant demand from Burma’s ethnic groups to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution must guarantee the rights of self-determination and of equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament. It is also required to include provisions against racial discrimination.
At the June 2004 National Convention, 13 ceasefire groups submitted a political proposal demanding equal access to the plenary session. But the convention’s convening committee dismissed the proposal as improper. When the 2008 Constitution came out, none of the political points proposed by the ethnic representatives were included.
Ethnic revolutionary groups in the five states have been looking for increased freedom from successive Burmese governments since the country’s independence in 1948.
The junta took 14 years to draft the current constitution. It was boycotted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and others ethnic democratic parties who gained a landslide victory in the 1990 elections.
On Monday, Aye Aye Win of Associated Press reported that a lawmaker from Suu Kyi’s NLD party, Phyo Min Thein, suggested the ruling party constitutional amendment proposal was meant to reward Suu Kyi for her moderate position in the dispute over the Letpadaung co