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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid