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Move to amend Myanmar’s 2008 constitution approved

MANDALAY (UCAN): The parliament of the Union of Myanmar union parliament approved the formation of a 45-member committee to draft a bill to amend the country’s military-drafted 2008 constitution by a vote of 389 to 192 on February 19.
 
The plan was approved over the objections from military lawmakers and the main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
 
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) will have 18 lawmakers on the committee, while there will be eight military lawmakers, two each from USDP, the Arakan National Party (ANP) and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) alongside others from other ethnic parties.
 
Tun Tun Hein, chairperson of the new committee, told parliament that the aim of the all-inclusive panel will be to write a bill to change the 2008 constitution.
Military members of parliament (MPs) and the USDP have yet to send their nominees to the committee.
 
Military MPs claim the move is not in line with parliamentary procedure and staged a silent, standing protest during a parliamentary session on January 29.
 
The previous ruling military regime drafted the 2008 constitution, which reserves 25 per cent of seats in the parliament for the military and gives them control of the key portfolios of home affairs, defense and border security.
 
Military MPs also have the power to veto any proposed charter changes, especially provisions that would curb their political power.
 
Military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has said in a rare interview with foreign media that the military accepted that the constitution needed amendments. “But the important thing is that no amendment should harm its essence,” he told Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun.
 
The NLD’s move to amend the constitution came just days after a court in Yangon handed down death sentences to two men for the murder of Ko Ni, the prominent Muslim lawyer and adviser to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was shot dead at Yangon International Airport on 29 January 2017. 
 
The gunman, Kyi Lin, and a former military officer accused of hiring him, Aung Win Zaw, were convicted of his killing.
 
Ko Ni was an expert in constitutional law and spoke against the 2008 constitution which allowed the military to retain significant influence despite handing over power to Suu Kyi’s civilian administration in April 2016.
 
Suu Kyi, who has been barred from becoming president because she was married to a foreigner, has led the country via the specially created role of state counsellor after being helped by Ko Ni.

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