News / Asia

    Few Signs of Support for Changing Burma's Constitution

    Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to journalists during a press briefing in Rangoon, Jan. 2, 2014.
    Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to journalists during a press briefing in Rangoon, Jan. 2, 2014.
    Gabrielle Paluch
    Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi is the country’s most well-known politician, but she faces legal challenges in her widely anticipated bid to run for president in elections next year. A constitutional clause forbids candidates whose spouses or children are foreign citizens. There is pressure to change the measure, but there may not be enough support to make it happen.

    Burma’s constitution, ratified by the military-ruled government in 2008 is notoriously difficult to amend. It also contains a clause which prohibits Burmese citizens whose spouse, children, or children's spouses have foreign citizenship from becoming president. Clause 59(f), absent from the country's previous two constitutions, appeared to be directed at preventing a particular citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi, from running for president.
     
    Six years later, there is a public push to reverse the clause and have the country’s most well-known politician run for president.
     
    Public rallies around the country regularly draw hundreds of Burmese in support of changing the constitution to allow her to run. Ma Khin Myo Thant has been a political activist since 2007. At a rally in the economic capital Rangoon Thursday, she said she believes “Mother Suu” should be president because it's what the people want.
     
    She says if Aung San Suu Kyi can be president, it is genuinely the best thing for the country and the next generation.
     
    Many regard Aung San Suu Kyi's expected candidacy in the upcoming 2015 presidential election as a concrete measure of progress for a government that is still in the process of demilitarizing. But changing the constitution requires the consent of Burma’s parliament, which is still dominated by the military and its allies.
     
    To tackle the task of amending the constitution, Burma's three-year-old legislature established a parliamentary review committee to consider changes to the document. On January 31, the committee submitted a report summarizing the more than 30,000 letters it had received suggesting amendments.
     
    Somewhat surprisingly, the report found overwhelming support for leaving clause 59(f) as is, and cited a petition with more than 106,000 signatures opposing the change in the report's footnotes.
     
    Opponents of changing 59(f) are unhappy with seeing someone who is seen as being close to the West in a position of power in government.
     
    Although the president has expressed support for changing Burma’s constitution, he has not addressed 59(f) in particular.
     
    Among lawmakers, there is similar consensus that the constitution should be amended, but which clauses and the timing is still undecided, according to independent political analyst Richard Horsey.
     
    He said the review committee's report did not reflect the balance of opinion on the issue because of methodological flaws in how it was carried out.
     
    He said though it's not likely 59(f) would be amended in time for Aung San Suu Kyi's candidacy, there were a number of other constitutional changes that are critical to Burma’s reform process, and perhaps a better measure of true reform.

    Horsey said a number of clauses reserved too much power for the central government, undermining the peace process in the world's longest-running civil war.
     
    "Particularly those related to the division of power and resources and tax revenue between the center and the periphery, and particularly as regards to the ethnic states these are really important issues for peace in the country and for reconciliation," he said.
     
    The National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi's party, plans to continue to hold rallies in support of amending 59(f), and allowing the Nobel Peace laureate a chance at becoming president.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora