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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs