News / Asia

Myanmar Opposition Says Millions Signed Petition to Change Constitution

People signing amendment of the 2008 Constitution as members of National League for democracy collect signatures on a street in Yangon, July 16, 2014.
People signing amendment of the 2008 Constitution as members of National League for democracy collect signatures on a street in Yangon, July 16, 2014.
Reuters

Myanmar's main opposition party says it has collected about five million signatures seeking reduced powers for unelected military members of parliament as the country, which emerged from dictatorship in 2011, moves towards an election next year.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has spearheaded the campaign, which ended on Saturday, to rescind Section 436 of the constitution. That clause requires a 75 percent vote in parliament to amend most sections of the constitution - all but impossible for an opposition party to achieve.

But the NLD's efforts are unlikely to make much of a difference.

Shwe Mann, speaker of parliament, said this month that the petition would not influence the work of a parliamentary committee tasked with recommending constitutional amendments. Shwe Mann is also chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), made up mainly of former officers.

Striking down clause 436 has been the focus of the drive, which has gained widespread support in the former Burma for a second goal - to enable Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy efforts and spent most of the next two decades under house arrest where she continued to resist military rule.

Although she remains popular, she is ineligible for the presidency under a constitutional provision which bars candidates with a foreign child or spouse - her late husband was British as are both her sons.

Tun Tun Hein, an NLD official responsible for the petition, told Reuters the party was still counting signatures and predicted the total would likely surpass five million. He said the party would decide how to present its petition to the government once the number was established at the end of July.

The NLD canvassed the country of 60 million for almost two months, tapping into discontent among many who say the military should withdraw from politics after ruling for 49 years.

"Things just went from bad to worse under the rule of the military. Enough is enough,'' said Kyaw Win, a civil servant who stood in drizzle waiting to sign the petition at a streetside booth in Yangon, the country's largest city.

Under the current constitution, 25 percent of the seats in parliament are set aside for the military. And more than half of the rest are held by the USDP.

Myanmar's former ruling junta, which repeatedly cracked down on pro-democracy protests, stepped aside in March 2011. A semi-civilian government has since introduced reforms, including the release of political prisoners.

While the military ceded nominal political power to civilians, including former officers who retired to join the USDP, it cemented its role in government through the constitution it drafted in 2008.

"The present government is related to the previous government and that's why they made this law ,'' said Htay Myint Oo, a sea captain, referring to clause 436, as he added his signature. "We need to amend this law quickly.''

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs