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Myanmar's Christian house speaker faces impeachment calls

Military lawmakers accuse T Khun Myat of breaking the constitution

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Myanmar's Christian house speaker faces impeachment calls

Members of Myanmar's parliament take a break abiding by social distancing rules at the parliament building in Naypyidaw on May 29. (Photo: Thet Aung/AFP)

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Myanmar’s military lawmakers and the former ruling party are seeking the impeachment of the speaker of the union parliament after they accused him of breaking the constitution.

An urgent proposal was submitted to the lower house on May 28 signed by 110 lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the military bloc.

USDP MP Sai Tun Sein who submitted the proposal said house speaker T Khun Myat violated the constitution by allowing the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to submit an urgent motion to set up the constitution amendment committee but blocked proposals submitted jointly by his party and military MPs for a debate on charter change.

The impeachment motion cited that the speaker has blocked their submissions calling on the military-dominated National Defense and Security Council to discuss Covid-19 containment and seeking an explanation of the government’s actions on the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures.

A proposal to remove the speaker or deputy can be submitted once it has the support of 110 MPs or a quarter of all MPs, according to the law.

The motion, however, requires support from two-thirds of MPs in the union parliament through a secret ballot. The USDP and unelected military MPs together make up 32 percent in parliament.

Observers see it is less likely to pass the motion in the NLD-dominated parliament as MPs from the League are expected to vote the proposal down in the coming session.

Tensions arose between the USDP, military MPs and the speaker over the charter change push by the NLD. T Khun Myat has interrupted protests by opposition MPs and warned them about shouting in parliament.

The NLD’s year-long push for charter change, however, ended in failure after the USDP and military bloc rejected almost all of their amendment proposals, except a handful of cosmetic changes.

Any changes to the charter require the support of 75 percent of lawmakers, giving the Tatmadaw (military) an effective veto.

On March 22, 2018, T Khun Myat was elected speaker of the lower house, replacing Win Myint who resigned to take the president’s role.

The 70-year-old Baptist became an independent lawmaker after being sacked from the military-linked USDP in 2017. He was fired along with Shwe Mann, a former military general by the then Thein Sein-led government during a midnight raid at the party’s headquarter in Naypyitaw, the remote capital, in 2015.

The Kachin politician has a close relationship with the ruling NLD due to his good ties with Shwe Mann, a former lower house speaker who has been close to state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi since the 2012 by-elections.

T Khun Myat contested and won the Kutkai township constituency for a seat in the lower house in both the 2010 and 2015 elections. He was involved in the commission drafting the constitution in 2007 and the commission for the constitutional referendum in 2008.

His election as speaker raised eyebrows due to his alleged involvement in the narcotics trade. He has been identified as the former leader of a militia in Kutkai township, Shan state, and accused of involvement in the drug trade and money laundering. He has denied all such accusations.

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