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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid