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Myanmar: Constitutional reform bid spurs rival protests

Thousands rallied for constitutional changes to reduce military powers; pro-military nationalists staged counter-protests

Kyaw Ye Lynn   | 17.07.2019
Myanmar: Constitutional reform bid spurs rival protests file photo

YANGON, Myanmar

Thousands of people on Wednesday gathered in Myanmar’s commercial city Yangon and in at least three other cities on Wednesday in support of proposed constitutional reforms that would reduce the power of the military.

Aimed at diluting the power of the military, a parliamentary committee on Monday proposed amendments in the military-draft constitution.

Activists have organized rallies in Yangon and several cities on Wednesday to pressure military to agree to the proposed constitutional amendments.

“The process would be smooth if Tamadaw agrees to the proposed amendments as it has veto power to block any important amendment in parliaments,” said Mya Aye, one of the organizers of the protests, using the Burmese name of military Tamadaw.

“Tamadaw leaders always say they respect the people’s desire. If they really do, these protests would help them understand what people want,” he told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

In separate protests in at least two major cities -- Yangon and Mandalay -- on Wednesday, pro-military nationalists staged demonstration against the proposed constitutional reforms.

“If the parliament is planning to amend articles 59 (f), it is better to ride it off. Otherwise they would face a strong opposition from us,” said Mya Muyar, who joined a counter-protest in Yangon.

Article 59 (f) of the constitution, which bars Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, is included in the list of stipulation proposed to the parliament for amendment.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party also proposed to gradually lower the reserved quota of parliamentary seats for military.

Currently, the military was given 25 percent of the seats both in national and region/state level parliaments, and they effectively block any important constitutional amendments that require approval from more than 75 percent of the total lawmakers.

Under the constitution, the military was also given power to control three key ministries in the Cabinet, namely Ministries of Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs.

The debate for the proposed constitution amendments would began at the parliament in the capital on July 22, according to local media reports.

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