Yangon protest condemns military dominance

Yangon has seen a large protest to demand constitutional reform, amid rising tension between State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and the generals over the charter that enshrines the general’s political dominance.

Protesters chanted “take a rest, military dictatorship”.

University of New South Wales academic Melissa Crouch said ongoing conflict with numerous rebel armies in Myanmar’s rugged border regions was used to justify the military’s ongoing political dominance.

“They have made very clear that until the ethnic armed organisations are no longer active, the military still sees it as a necessity to be involved,” said the legal scholar.

The NLD in January launched a bid to change the 2008 constitution by forming a committee to devise amendments.

The attempt at reform sparked a protest in the legislature from the 25 per cent of MPs who are military appointees.

Constitutional change requires 75-per-cent approval in parliament, meaning the military can veto any attempts to amend the charter.

It also enshrines military control of three of the most powerful ministries: home affairs, border affairs and defence.

The officers stood in silence for several minutes in the chamber to show their opposition to the NLD’s measure. They vote as a cohesive bloc and follow orders from the nation’s notorious generals.

One of the demands includes the removal of section 59(f) which bars Suu Kyi from becoming president because she married a foreigner and her two sons have UK citizenship.

The position of state counsellor was tailor-made for Suu Kyi, making her a de-facto prime minister.

“The current constitution is for the junta to maintain power, and not allow the state counsellor to be president,” said 58-year-old protester Thein Myint Tun.

Suu Kyi’s move into politics was arguably flawed when she agreed to stand for parliament in 2012 on the condition that she accept the controversial constitution.

“We are demonstrating to support the constitutional amendments committee,” protest organiser Yin Htwe. “We are on the side of the people.”

The generals accused the NLD of using unconstitutional means to change the military-drafted charter, which was approved in a controversial referendum held in the wake of the devastating 2007 Cyclone Nargis.

“Forming the joint committee to amend the constitution is not in line with the constitution,” Major General Tun Tun Nyi told the media.

National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon. Picture credit: Asean Economist