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2 June – 8 June: Burma Must Amend the 2008 Constitution for the Reform to be Genuinely Democratic

June 10, 2014

n008-The National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have  faced intimidation from Burma’s electoral commission in recent weeks as the campaign to amend Burma’s 2008 Constitution continues to draw strong support throughout the country. As the public rallies behind the campaign, Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have accused the campaign leaders of sowing public unrest and disorder.

Last month, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 supporters in Mandalay, calling on the military to forgo their fear of constitutional amendment in support of democratic reform. According to a recent statement from Human Rights Watch, the Union Electoral Commission (UEC) subsequently warned the NLD leader that such comments are illegal and unconstitutional, and could jeopardize her party’s re-registration ahead of by-elections in 2014. The NLD has responded to the UEC’s warning as inappropriate, owing to the fact that political parties are allowed to stage rallies so long as they are in accordance with the law.

There have been many attempts in the past to clamp down on the NLD’s right to freedom of speech and movement. In April, the UEC announced a proposal that tried to restrict political party leaders from canvassing outside their district in a clear attempt to bar the NLD leader from conducting a nationwide campaign.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi began discussions with the ruling USDP regarding constitutional reform in 2013. She becamen increasingly  vocal in November as the timeframe for submission to the parliamentary Joint Committee for Reviewing the Constitution entered its final months. While public concern was initially focused on Article 59(f) of the constitution, which effectively bars Daw Aung San Suuu Kyi from running as president, the recent campaign joined by the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society in 2014 has strategically focused on Article 436. Article 436 requires the approval of at least 75% of the members of both houses of Parliament to amend the constitution. In addition, Article 109(b) stipulates 25% military allocation in Parliament, giving the military an effective veto over changes.

Gaining momentum in May, the campaign has drawn a crowd by tens of thousands nationwide, who have joined together to advocate for changes to the current constitution. On 27 May 2014, the joint group began gathering signatures in support of amending Article 436. The campaign will collect the signatures through July 19 and will submit these to the Parliament’s Constitution Review Committee.

Constitutional revision is also fundamental to resolving the ethnic armed struggles. The NLD and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society have sought support from United Nationalities Alliance, a coalition of 12 ethnic political parties, to hold rallies calling for constitutional reform, stressing the importance of ethnic equality to be guaranteed in a genuine federal union. As ceasefire negotiations move forward, the ethnic groups have sought greater autonomy for their people. In order to resolve issues surrounding equality, self-determination, security, and natural resources among other pressing issues, constitutional reform must ensure full political representation of Burma’s diverse ethnic groups. Without amendments, the military will retain a tight grip on the power to veto any future constitutional amendments.

In addition, the 2008 Constitution – drafted by the military – gives the security forces immunity from crimes committed during junta’s rule, allowing those in power to stay above the law and continue to perpetrate heinous crimes with impunity. This undemocratic constitution must be changed to reflect the collective aspiration of the people of Burma and to embrace the fundamental principles of human rights.

Despite the series of reforms welcomed by the international community, Burma’s constitution still falls short of meeting fair and fundamental democratic principles and international human rights standards. A change in the constitution will open the door to a transition that will lead the way to a more democratic nation. The international community must not judge the reforms at face value, but dig below the surface in support of fundamental changes in Burma’s constitution that respects the human rights of all people of Burma.

In addition, anti-democratic stipulations position opposition parties at a disadvantage, and this will not set a good precedent for free and fair elections in 2015. The UEC must not curtail the right of the NLD and its leaders or any other opposition parties to exercise freedom of speech and expression by threatening or intimidating them. If Burma’s nominally civilian government is serious about democratization, it must support the calls for constitutional amendment and speed up the process of constitutional change well ahead of the 2015 elections.

News Highlights

Burmese activists who publicly oppose the interfaith marriage bill face intimidation and even death threats

Inside Burma

In the Chin State capital of Hakha, National League for Democracy (NLD) party and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society hold the latest campaign for constitutional reform, where some 300 people attended

NLD member is murdered in Taunggyi, continuing a trend of attacks on NLD members in this area over the past few years

Burma’s upper house of parliament votes to discuss switching to a proportional representation voting system, the proposal submitted by the National Democratic Force

President Thein Sein says constitutional reform should be initiated once the government has signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement with all 17 ethnic armed groups currently involved in the peace process

Karen National Union leaders meet with President Thein Sein and the head of the Burma Army, Min Aung Hlaing, in Naypyidaw, gaining a pledge of troop withdrawal as relations  appear as close as ever although Karen civil society organizations remain concerned about the lack of transparency with these meetings

Burma Army deploys more troops to areas of northern Shan State close to the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army and the United Wa State Army

In Tavoy, Tenasserim Division, twenty farmers are charged for disturbing local authorities after they resisted their attempts to measure out lands that have been at the centre of a longstanding dispute

Burma’s journalists criticise public service media law drafted by the Ministry of Information, intended to separate state media from political influence, as “inappropriate” during a government-organised meeting in Naypyidaw


Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ permanent secretary, meets Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Burma and explains to him about three-stage plan set out by the National Council for Peace and Order, which it hopes will return democracy to Thailand

The coup in Thailand cause problems for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from neighboring Cambodia and Burma since Thai security forces have shut down illegal crossing points, stranding many who cross back and forth for work in Thailand

Tension and clashes between the Burma and Bangladeshi Border Guard Forces leaves a Bangladeshi corporal dead, with talks aimed at a resolution yet to be undertaken


Former Norwegian ambassador to Burma, Katja Nordgaard, becomes Executive Vice-president of Telenor, the Norwegian telecommunications company that won one of the two lucrative telecommunications contracts with the Burma government recently, sparking criticism in both Burma and Norway over a clash of interests, meanwhile Ooredoo, the Qatari company that won the other major telecommunications contract is facing a campaign that is organizing boycott of its services as it is based in a Muslim country

Dutch aerospace company, Fokker, is fined $21million for illegally exporting aircraft parts made in the US, to countries under sanctions, including Burma

US clothing giant, Gap, is to import clothing from Burma for this time since the lifting of sanctions this month from two South Korean-owned factories


The Pall of Silence Around Myanmar’s Fictitious Democracy
By Giacomo Tognini
The Jakarta Globe

There’s a Kind of Hush
By Nicholas Kristof
The New York Times

Peace in Burma: Closer Than Ever but Still Beyond Reach
By Feliz Solomon
Democratic Voice of Burma

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In Kawkareik Township, Karen State, Karen civilians deliver a petition calling for all Karen armed groups to unify into one single force to stop drug trafficking and to help restore law and order

Three residents from the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Rangoon file a formal complaint to Tokyo about the negative effects of Japanese investment in the area

Twenty-three farmers from Dedaye, Irrawaddy Division travel to Naypyidaw, with the hopes of meeting President Thein Sein

Statements and Press Releases

55 Organisations Worldwide Call for Action for Peace on Kachin Anniversary
By 55 Organisations Worldwide

Burma Signing Sexual Violence Declaration Should not Just be PR Exercise
By Burma Campaign UK

Myanmar: End Wartime Torture in Kachin State and Northern Shan State
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Burma: Election Body Intimidating Opposition
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Displaced Villagers File Complaint Regarding Japan’s Investment in Myanmar’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone
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New Report Card Scores US Companies Investing in Burma
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“I Thought They Would Kill Me”: Ending Wartime Torture in Northern Myanmar
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Bouncing Back – Relapse in the Golden Triangle
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This post is in: Weekly Highlights