Myan­mar picks panel to re­form army-scripted con­sti­tu­tion

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

Myan­mar has set up a com­mit­tee to dis­cuss re­form­ing the coun­try's mil­i­tary-drafted con­sti­tu­tion, 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 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 docua­ment.

With 2020 polls loom­ing, par­lia­ment voted over­whelm­ingly 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 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 ad­vi­sor 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", an­a­lyst Khin Zaw Win, di­rec­tor of Yan­gonbased Tam­padipa In­sti­tute, told AFP, adding there could be a "reck­on­ing of sorts" ap­proach­ing be­tween the NLD and army.

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

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