Constitutional reforms must go through parliament: Myanmar minister

Published: 9:41 PM, August 1, 2014
Updated: 9:44 PM, August 1, 2014

SINGAPORE — The Myanmar government accepts that constitutional reforms in the country need to be seen through, but reforms have to follow appropriate procedures and the process cannot be rushed, said the Coordinating Minister for Economic Development U Soe Thane.

He was refering to moves by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, to lobby for constitutional amendments that will allow Ms Suu Kyi to contest next year’s presidential election.

Noting that the country’s reforms are a long-term process, Mr U Soe Thane also said he expects President Thein Sein to contest at the election.

Mr U Soe Thane is in Singapore today (Aug 1) as a keynote speaker at the 7TH ASEAN and Asia Forum organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

The NLD is campaigning to amend Article 436 of the constitution - a controversial clause that effectively bars any reform of the charter without full military approval.

The constitution requires a 75 per cent vote in parliament before the constitution can be changed. The present constitution allows the military a mandatory 25 per cent representation in parliament, affording it the power to veto any changes.

The NLD says the requirement makes the constitution undemocratic and is unfair for opposition parties. It is pursuing an amendment so that Ms Suu Kyi could contest in next year’s election. She is barred from contesting under a constitutional provision which mandates that candidates with a foreign child or spouse cannot run for the presidency. Ms Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and she has two children who are also British citizens.

“We accept that the constitution should be changed... You can change it according to the procedure. That is the way we have to do this,” Mr U Soe Thane said, referring to the requirement that constitutional amendments should be pursued through parliament.

The NLD has ramped up it efforts ahead of the election and campaigned for public support to amend Article 436. Last week it said it had received five million signatures backing the move.

Although the campaign appears to have gained strong public support, there remain doubts over how much sway the campaign could hold with the country’s parliament.

Last month, members of Mr Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party emphasised the importance of the work of a parliamentary committee that had been tasked with recommending constitutional amendments.