NLD seeks to clip Myanmar military's wings

Generals protest as Suu Kyi's party launches plan to amend constitution to cut military's political influence
NLD seeks to clip Myanmar military's wings

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the opening ceremony of the Invest Myanmar Summit in Naypyitaw on Jan. 28. Her National League for Democracy wants to change the constitution to limit the military's power. (Photo by AFP)

Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) faces strong opposition from Myanmar military MPs over its plan to amend the constitution to reduce the military’s role in politics.

MP Aung Kyi Nyunt on Jan. 29 submitted an urgent proposal for the union parliament to form a joint committee of lawmakers to implement changes to the constitution.

He said provisions in the 2008 constitution are not in line with democratic norms and would impede the implementation of a genuinely democratic federal union.

Brig. Gen. Maung Maung, one of the appointed military MPs who comprise 25 percent of the parliament, insisted that the plan violates parliamentary procedure.

Military MPs wearing green uniforms stood to protest the proposal as the NLD-majority parliament voted to approve forming a committee on amending the constitution. Despite military objections, the NLD won the vote 394-17.

Naw San, a Catholic and lower house MP for the NLD in Kachin State, said amending the constitution was part of the party’s 2015 election manifesto and it is time to deliver what was promised to the public.

“All people in Myanmar are aware the 2008 constitution is not democratic and needs to be amended. We are hopeful that we can overcome challenges if all stakeholders work toward a democratic federal union,” he told ucanews.com.

Khin Zaw Win, director of the Yangon-based Tampadipa Institute, said the timing is right for the NLD as the 2020 election is drawing near and the party needs to show the progress of one of its key manifesto promises in 2015.

“Forming a committee on amending the constitution is just a start and many steps are needed to follow. We need to wait and see the NLD’s action plan,” he told ucanews.com.

Khin Zaw Win said the military MPs’ protest in parliament showed they are losing the political game and are out of step with Myanmar people who want to amend the constitution.

The proposal could cause tension between the military and the NLD-led government.

Suu Kyi’s government and the military have been facing pressure from the international community over the military’s bloody crackdown that led to more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing into Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader, is barred from becoming president under a military-drafted constitution that excludes her because she was married to a foreigner. However, she leads the country via the specially created role of state counselor and is also foreign minister.

“The completion of our democratic transition must necessarily involve the completion of a truly democratic constitution,” Suu Kyi said during a forum in Singapore last August.

After having ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for decades, the military still wields enormous power through its control of the defense, home affairs and border ministries and with a guaranteed 25 percent of seats in parliament.

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