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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid