News / Asia

Myanmar’s Parliament Seeks to Repeal Military Veto

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is pictured during her meeting with Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala at his official residence in Kathmandu, June 13, 2014.
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is pictured during her meeting with Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala at his official residence in Kathmandu, June 13, 2014.
Gabrielle Paluch

Myanmar’s legislature is the cornerstone of its four-year-old civilian government, but reserves one quarter of parliamentary seats for appointed military representatives, giving them veto power over all constitutional amendments. The legislature is now considering amending the constitution to remove this veto power, which international observers say is a key step in affirming the country’s transition to civilian rule.

Myanmar’s main opposition party the National League for Democracy has already gathered some three million signatures on a petition calling for the repeal of the military veto provision known as article 436.
 
Repeal petition

Earlier this week in Myanmar, also known as Burma, Party leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a crowd how important the measure is for the country.
 
"If we don't change 436, it means that the military has virtual veto power over what can or cannot be changed within the constitution, and I think it should be the elected representatives of the people who decide whether or not the constitution should be changed," she said.
 
Under the article, any constitutional amendments require a 75 percent majority to be approved, effectively granting a veto to the one quarter of the military appointees. The petition is set to conclude on July 19.
 
Ko Ni is a legal advisor for the NLD and sits on their constitutional change committee. He says it will be very difficult to change article 436 through parliament because the NLD hold only per cent of the seats in parliament. He says the party hopes the petition signature drive will help their cause, but it will still likely need the support of some military MPs, willing to break away and not align their votes with the military block.
 
"In my opinion it is impossible, but because of the pressure of the citizen. If they consider the will of the desire of the citizens, maybe they will agree to amend the constitution. If they are so afraid to change section 436, we can fail," said Ko Ni.
 
Even if the amendment gets past parliament with a 75 percent majority, it still requires a 51 percent majority in a nationwide referendum, as a final step before being repealed, according to Ko Ni.
 
Military control

Since the Thein Sein government took office in 2010, it has been criticized for being only nominally civilian, among other reasons because the constitution is amendable only with the permission of the military.
 
Speaking at a military academy in Naypyitaw last week, U.S. Major General Anthony Crutchfield told assembled officers that an important step to becoming a professional military is to be controlled by a civilian government, and not the other way around.
 
Members of the military frequently explain their political power by saying it is aimed at preventing chaos in the country.  David Law, professor of law and political science at Washington University, calls that suspiciously self-serving.

Although changing the constitution through legal means is very difficult, there are a number of ways to circumvent that problem, according to Law, through a constitutional tribunal, a new referendum, or by court ruling. He points out, however, that taking power away from the military too quickly, could backfire.
 
"If they don't have seats in the parliament then you run a different risk which is that the parliament does whatever the parliament wants to do, but that may just lead to a coup," he said. "So the question is how do you have a democracy while also not giving the military both the ability and the desire to overthrow whatever government you create?"
 
The next step for the proposed amendment is when the committee drafting the bill sends it to the full parliament, expected before the end of July.
 

 

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs