Myanmar assembly approves the formation of a constitutional review committee

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 is one step closer to revising its constitution after the country’s Union Assembly approved the formation of a constitutional review committee today following a majority voting in favor of the motion, according to a livestream posted on the Myanmar Union Parliament Facebook page.

The motion passed with 414 votes for, 191 opposing and 6 abstentions out of 621 MPs who were present to vote.

U Htun Htun Hein, the Union Assembly vice president, will serve as the committee’s president and the rest of the committee will be made up by elected MPs from political parties as well as military representatives.

“The joint committee will have equal representation from the House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw) and the House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw). They will decide what the committee is charged with, what they are responsible for, their powers and how long they will be engaged in the work,” the speaker of the Union Assembly, T Khun Myat, told the house.

However, other details about the committee, including how many members it would include, when they would begin their work, and the specific sections of the constitution that they would review, remain murky.

Reviewing the constitution has been a long time goal of the NLD, who campaigned on the promise of amending the 2008 Myanmar constitution, which was drafted by the military junta and guarantees them key control over the ministries of defense, border affairs and home affairs, as well as 25% of the seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Moreover, the 2008 Myanmar constitution bars anyone who is related to a foreign national from serving as the country’s president, a seemingly bizarre rule that many view as a targeted ban on Aung San Suu Kyi, who has two sons that are British nationals.

However, U Ko Ni, the NLD legal advisor who was assassinated outside Yangon International Airport, created the role of State Counselor, a new position tailor-made for Suu Kyi to assume the de-facto leader of the NLD-led civilian government in 2018.

The emergency motion to begin the process of forming the constitutional review committee came on the two-year anniversary of U Ko Ni’s death, amidst the ongoing trial of the alleged perpetrators. All the while, the alleged mastermind behind the assassination is still at large.

U Ko Ni’s murder has had a “chilling effect” on the NLD government, many of whom have said that the brazen daylight killing has had a stifling effect on Myanmar’s nascent institutions that have not yet had time to develop.

The approval of this constitutional review committee is the first step towards healing the wounds inflicted on Myanmar’s democratic transition on Jan. 29, 2017.

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