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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora