Burma creates a 109-member committee to review constitution under uncertainty
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Burma creates a 109-member committee to review constitution under uncertainty

The Union Parliament of Burma accepted a proposal to shape a 109-member Joint Committee to Review the 2008 Constitution on 25 July in order to make indispensable changes.

The committee was set up with the deputy speaker of the Union Parliament as chairman along with the deputy speaker of the Lower House and the deputy speaker of the Upper House reserved for vice chairman. The committee was formed with members of parliament, members of political parties, military MPs and individuals.

The political game seems looking for solution to the hot constitution issue on the agenda for the 2015 general election. 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 the  media news, the revision proposal was submitted to the lower house by Thura Aye Myint, vice chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and it was approved without any objection. 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.

The 15-chapter 2008-Constitution, drafted in line with the key principles laid down by the previous junta, was promulgated in May 2008 after a public referendum.

Under existing constitution, a general election was held 0n 7 November 2010 and the USDP won majority of the parliamentary seats. The USDP Chairman Thein Sein has been elected as president of the new quasi-civilian government and run the office in March 2011.

In 2012, the government has amended the political party registration law to pave way for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi who was released from house arrest on 13 November, 2010. Then on 1 April 2012, her party run in the by-elections and won 43 out of 45 parliamentary seats, including one for Suu Kyi in the Lower House.

There is a constant demand from the country’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.

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.

President Thein Sein has said recently to the BBC Burmese service that he will not run in the 2015 polls and he would not go up against Aung San Suu Kyi contesting for the top post.  Aung San Suu Kyi also wants revising the constitution especially with the military’s compulsory 25 percent quota in parliament.     

A constitutional amendment needs at least 75 percent supporters in the parliament. But the military-backed USDP has overpowered beyond 80 percent seats in the parliament. Burma’s current 2008-Constitution is inundated with misleading principles. It says the country must be united under one military command.