Military boycotts vote as Assembly moves to review Myanmar’s constitution

Myanmar military MPs boycott vote on motion to discuss constitutional review committee – via Mizzima TV screenshot.
Myanmar military MPs boycott vote on motion to discuss constitutional review committee – via Mizzima TV screenshot.

Myanmar’s Union Assembly on Friday will meet to hash out the details of a new working committee charged with reviewing Myanmar’s 2008 constitution, although it’s not immediately clear precisely what elements are being targeted for potential reform.

A proposal to discuss the formation of a joint committee passed yesterday by a vote of 394 to 17, with 3 abstaining and 110 military representatives boycotting the vote, marking the first step toward potential reform of a document that was created solely by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, and assured them a “leading political role in the future state.”

The “urgent” motion, which was not originally part of Tuesday’s agenda, was submitted by U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a National League for Democracy representative from Magway’s 4th constituency.

During the parliamentary session, Aung Kyi pointed out key contradictions in the 2008 constitution that he said amounted to obstacles to the successful formation of a multi-party democracy.

While not venturing too far into specifics, he did seem to allude to the current constitution’s guarantee of 25% of seats for the military when saying that “some provisions also negatively impact free and fair elections, and equal rights,” signaling the NLD’s apparent desire to fundamentally change the makeup of the Union Assembly.

Other provisions that could be in the NLD’s sights are the one that prohibits anyone related to a foreign national from serving as president, which eliminated NLD icon Aung San Suu Kyi from the running.

“The Myanmar people didn’t have a chance to contribute to the 2008 Myanmar constitution. When the NLD party studied it, many provisions such as the one that prevents anyone who has relatives who are foreigners from being president, prevent qualified people who are from Myanmar from serving,” U Wai Phyo Aung, an MP from Yangon’s Thaketa township told the Myanmar Times.

Tuesday’s measure wasn’t passed without a bit of drama. Before Speaker U T Khun Myat ruled that it could be moved to a vote, Brigadier General Maung Maung stood up and protested what he called a violation of parliamentary procedure.

“The MPs should have been notified about the proposal; this isn’t according to parliamentary process,” he said, complaining that the Assembly was unaware of the nature of the committee and its mandate.

Shortly after, all military MPs rose to their feet and remained standing to protest the vote, which they boycotted.

Yesterday’s vote came the same day as the two-year anniversary of U Ko Ni’s murder in broad daylight outside of Yangon International Airport. Although the political motivations of the plot remain murky, many believe the assassination was inspired by U Ko Ni’s work on constitutional reform.

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