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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
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 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.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


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