NAYPYITAW: Myanmar’s ruling party was set on Tuesday (Jan 29) to propose changes to the constitution, a lawmaker and a party source said, its biggest challenge in nearly three years to the military power enshrined in the charter.
The move could boost tension between the military, which retains a strong political role, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which have been at loggerheads over the charter since the party’s historic landslide win in 2015.
The surprise move comes as both civilian and military leaders, face growing international pressure over a brutal army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017 that sent about 730,000 people fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.
“They are going to submit the proposal today,” Ye Htut, an NLD upper house lawmaker for the northern region of Sagaing, told Reuters. “It is the election promise.”
At a short meeting with its MPs on Monday, the party’s central executive panel briefed them on the plans for Tuesday’s vote, said Ye Htut, who attended the gathering.
A second party source confirmed the amendment motion was to be presented at parliament’s Tuesday session.
Party spokesman Myo Nyunt declined to comment. Reuters was unable to seek comment from the parliamentary office.
The parliamentary agenda reviewed by Reuters does not show the proposal, but political analyst Yan Myo Thein said it was possible to submit a new one at the end of the session, with the speaker’s approval, or call an afternoon session to submit it.
It was not clear what provisions of the constitution the proposal would target or whether the NLD had secured the buy-in from the military necessary to pass such a measure.
The 2008 charter, drafted during the rule of the military junta, guarantees the army a quarter of parliamentary seats in the two houses. Constitutional changes require votes of more than 75 percent, giving the army an effective veto.
In the past, some members of Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi’s party have expressed their desire to amend Article 436 of the constitution, which lays out the rules.
The military also controls key security ministries, such as defence and home affairs, and owns sprawling business enterprises that control or affect broad swathes of the economy.
Another possible target may be a constitutional prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children.
Suu Kyi had two sons with a British academic, so the measure effectively bars her from the office. But for nearly three years, she has ruled Myanmar from “above the president” by creating a powerful new position of State Counsellor.