The leader of the central women’s committee within the National League for Democracy (NLD), which holds a majority in Myanmar’s parliament, prohibited comments at a conference in Naypyidaw this week that could embarrass the military or express a desire to strip the military of its role in the country’s politics.
“Yesterday, some of the representatives from a state raised the topic of keeping the military out of politics, and there was applause,” Central Women’s Work Committee chairwoman May Win Myint told RFA. “But every country has a military that performs certain roles, such as having the military operate behind the scenes, while the police and home ministry are on the front lines in some democratic countries.”
Myanmar was under direct military rule from 1962 until 2011, when the ruling generals officially handed some presidential powers to former general Thein Sein. Under the country’s 2008 constitution, the military automatically controls 25 percent of each parliament, giving it veto power over constitutional amendments. It also controls the ministries of defense, home affairs, and border affairs.
May Win Myint’s comments mark a direct departure from the platform that swept the NLD to its electoral victory in Nov. 2015. At the time, one of the party’s main platforms was constitutional amendment.
In 2016, the party tried and failed to reduce the threshold for constitutional amendments from 75 percent parliamentary approval to 70 percent. The NLD also tried to amend Section 59(f) of the constitution in order to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to be president. The clause bars people with foreign relatives from the presidency.
It appears that the party has since reversed its course.
“Based on our history, the Tatmadaw has been around since independence, and we cannot remove them from politics,” May Win Myint said. “It has its own role, so I would like to say that I do not accept the complete removal of the military from politics.”
Women’s Work Committees operate at every level of government and strive to provide legal and social assistance to women in need.
The Nationwide Women’s Work Committees Congress was held from June 30 to July 2. As usual, state media reported who was there but not what happened.