News / Asia

Support Grows in Burma for Constitutional Change

FILE - Aung San Suu Kyi
FILE - Aung San Suu Kyi
Gabrielle Paluch
Burma’s current constitution effectively bars Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, but there are signs that that could change in time for the country’s 2015 national elections as proposals are being floated for amending the constitution to allow the Nobel Peace laureate to run.
Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces a deadline; in order for her to be able to run for president in elections slated for November 2015, the Burmese parliament must first push through necessary changes to the constitution.
This week, key political players voiced support for constitutional amendments but remained vague about exactly what changes they back.
The clause that could bar Aung San Suu Kyi's candidacy, 59(f), states that a presidential candidate's spouse, children or children's spouses may not hold foreign citizenship. Aung San Suu Kyi was married to deceased British author Michael Aris, and neither of the couple’s two adult sons have Burmese citizenship.
Another clause that would disqualify Suu Kyi requires presidential candidates to have military experience. Women were barred from military service in Burma until only recently.
President Thein Sein, who has said he would not seek a second term in office, came out in support of constitutional amendments in state media Thursday, saying a healthy constitution should be able to be changed.
Many in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, have seen Aung San Suu Kyi and her struggle against the former military government as a symbol for hope. Her supporters believe her presidency would be a measure of success for the country’s reform.
Ma Mwe was among some 30 protesters who came out in support of the amendments Friday in downtown Rangoon.
Ma said that in the 1990 election the Burmese people elected Suu Kyi to become the president of the country, but she was not allowed to become president. Ma said that this is totally against the will of the people in the country and why the constitution needs to be amended.
On Monday, the central committee of the ruling USDP party met in Naypyitaw to vote its support of 51 different constitutional amendments, including changes that could allow Aung San Suu Kyi to run.
Burma's constitution, approved in a 2008 referendum, requires a 75% majority to be amended; as 25% of the seats in Parliament are reserved for military appointees, any change must get backing from the powerful armed forces. It is at this time unclear if the military lawmakers back the constitutional changes to clear the path for Suu Kyi’s run.
In the past, military members of parliament have typically voted as a bloc, said Burma political analyst Richard Horsey.
Horsey said that although the president's support of the constitutional changes is a good sign, Thein Sein has no way of guaranteeing an amendment.
"We have a consensus among all the key political stakeholders in the country that some sort of constitutional change is required, but that is very far short of a consensus on what clauses need to be changed and what the new language should look like and when this should take place," said Horsey.
A number of other proposed constitutional amendments include changing how the chief justice and supreme court judges are chosen, and whether or not they are required to have legal experience. There are also proposals for granting a degree of autonomy to some ethnic groups observing a cease fire with the military.

You May Like

US Companies Pledge Action on Climate Change

Goals include reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent, reducing water usage by 80 percent, and buying 100 percent renewable energy

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs