Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Myanmar picks panel to reform army-scripted constitution

Myanmar picks panel to reform army-scripted constitution

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Myanmar’s President Win Myint (left) and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrive to attend a reception in Naypyidaw on February 12. Myanmar on Tuesday set up a committee to discuss reforming the country’s military-drafted constitution, pitting Suu Kyi’s civilian government openly against the powerful armed forces for the first time over the incendiary issue. THET AUNG/AFP

Myanmar picks panel to reform army-scripted constitution

MYANMAR set up a committee to discuss reforming the country’s military-drafted constitution on Tuesday, pitting Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government openly against the powerful armed forces for the first time over the incendiary issue.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide in the 2015 elections, but was forced into an uneasy power-sharing agreement with the armed forces.

Under a 2008 charter it drafted, the military controls all security ministries and is gifted a quarter of parliamentary seats.

That hands the army an effective veto over any constitutional change.

Suu Kyi’s party has promised to reform the controversial document.

With 2020 polls looming, parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to form a cross-party committee to debate reforms of the charter.

The main purpose of the “all-inclusive” panel will be to “write a bill to change the 2008 constitution”, deputy speaker and committee chair Tun Tun Hein, an NLD lawmaker, told parliament.

The NLD will be allocated 18 out of 45 seats on the panel, the military will have eight and the remainder will be divided between other parties.

There has so far been no detail about the specific reforms the discussions would focus on, or the steps ahead once the panel makes its recommendations.

But its formation threatens a political showdown with the army, whose bloc of MPs stood up in protest in early February when the committee’s formation was first mooted.

However, the army chief struck a more conciliatory tone in a rare interview with foreign media last week.

“We accept that the constitution needs amendments,” he told Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun.

“But the important point is that no amendment should harm [its] essence.”

The move by parliament came just a few days after a court handed death sentences to the killers behind the 2017 murder of Muslim lawyer and Suu Kyi adviser Ko Ni.

He was leading the charge on constitutional reform when he was shot dead in cold blood, while cradling his grandson.

Ko Ni is also credited with Suu Kyi’s circumnavigation of a clause banning anyone married to a foreigner from becoming president.

Suu Kyi, whose late husband was British academic Michael Aris, created her current post of state counsellor above the president’s office.

Forming the cross-party committee is “very significant”, said analyst Khin Zaw Win, director of Yangon-based Tampadipa Institute, adding there could be a “reckoning of sorts” looming between the army and NLD.

“It will need a lot of ingenuity and creativity from everyone.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hundreds of children in hospital with dengue

    A serious dengue fever epidemic is affecting Cambodia, with nearly 600 children hospitalised in the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals on Monday alone, a statement posted on the Kantha Bopha Foundation’s official Facebook page said on Wednesday. Because Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals provide

  • Sihanoukville building collapse death toll rises to 19

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Sunday that the government will act against those responsible for the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville on Saturday, which resulted in 19 dead and 24 injured as of Sunday evening. Sar Kheng said three Chinese nationals and one

  • Gov’t to probe Chinese exports to US via Sihanoukville

    The government is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are using Chinese-owned special economic zones in Cambodia to export goods to the US and avoid tariffs, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay. The move comes after US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes said the US had

  • Banh: The Khmer Rouge worse than sanctions and pressure

    Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Thursday that having sanctions and external pressure placed on Cambodia was not worse than life under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking to military and ruling party officials