Suu Kyi challenges military to amend Myanmar charter in 2014
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||19 May 2014|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, Suu Kyi challenges military to amend Myanmar charter in 2014, 19 May 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5391ba1d8.html [accessed 26 July 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a joint public meeting with the 88 Generation students calling for change to the constitution in Yangon, May 17, 2014. AFP
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi challenged Myanmar's military to amend the constitution by the end of the year, speaking to tens of thousands of cheering supporters in weekend public rallies in the country's two largest cities.
She called on members of parliament from the military, which enjoys a veto over constitutional change, to demonstrate their patriotism by voting in favor of changes to the 2008-junta drafted charter, seen as "undemocratic" by rights groups and the opposition.
"I want to urge them to show their ability to the world – that they have no intention of holding to power, and show how much they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the country," Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD), told a crowd of around 25,000 supporters in Myanmar's second biggest city Mandalay on Sunday.
The gathering was organized in collaboration with the 88 Generation students group as part of a nationwide campaign to push for constitutional reforms ahead of general elections next year.
They are specifically focusing on informing the public about Article 436 of Chapter 12 of the constitution, which says that any charter reform can take place only with the support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers.
The article guarantees the military its 25 percent of parliamentary seats, giving it veto powers in changing the constitution.
"I want to challenge them [military officials] to amend the constitution within this year, from within the boundaries of the law and via the Parliament," Aung San Suu Kyi said.
"If they truly love the country, respect the citizens: Think of the future of the country and be brave enough," she said.
Call for support
She encouraged the youth in Myanmar to write personal letters to the military Commander-in-Chief Senior-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and other military officials to join in democratic reform to build a better future for Myanmar.
The NLD is also calling for amendments to Article 59(F), which prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi from vying for the presidency in general elections late next year because her two sons are not citizens of Myanmar.
The NLD and Generation 88 also pressed for constitutional amendments during a rally a day earlier in Myanmar's largest city Yangon, which drew an estimated 15,000 people.
Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday reminded the crowd that her father, independence hero General Aung San, had formed Myanmar's military more than seven decades earlier to protect the country and its people.
"The army exists not to govern the country but to protect it. It is unpleasant to hold onto something that doesn't belong to you," she said, referring to the 25 percent bloc in parliament held by military MPs.
"I have to question why they want to do this, as it is to the detriment of your dignity and the country suffers [as a result]."
She also called the powers held by the military essentially a violation of the principles of Buddhism, which is practiced by the majority of Myanmar's citizens.
"The abuse of power that belongs in the possession of the people is effectively committing adinnadana: the taking of something that has not been given," Aung San Suu Kyi said.
88 Generation leader Min Ko Naing encouraged supporters to participate in an upcoming nationwide signature campaign calling for charter changes.
"The people are like the sky, which is always there for us, and the government or the men in power are like the clouds, which visit the sky temporarily," he said.
"We need people power to create a better future for the country."
Min Ko Naing said that amending the constitution is the only way Myanmar will be able to exist as a genuine federal democracy, adding that a recent call from President Thein Sein to avoid unrest ahead of the 2015 elections, and as parliament considers charter change, was unwarranted.
"We have the freedom to educate the people on what is going on with the politics of the country," Min Ko Naing said.
"We are peacefully working within the bounds of the law. Warning [against] unrest is just in fear of losing face for what they have done in the past."
Referring to the constitution as "only a green book, drafted by bullies," Min Ko Naing said that it is up to the people to determine if the charter should be amended.
"If you don't want a book, you can tear it to pieces. This won't happen by itself and we must act when the time is right," he said.
Following the public address, Aung San Suu Kyi met with community leaders and representatives from civil society organizations in Mandalay.
Kyaw Zayya, a local NLD representative who attended the meeting, told RFA's Myanmar Service that the discussion focused on collecting signatures calling for an amendment to Article 436 through a campaign led by local community leaders.
The NLD and 88 Generation plan to travel to other cities to hold rallies in support of charter change across all of Myanmar's 14 states and divisions, while signature campaigns across the country will begin on May 27 and will run through July 19.
Reported by Myo Zaw Ko for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.