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Thursday, Feb 22nd

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Chin Political Parties Call for Constitutional Change before 2015 Election

After U Shwe Man, the chairman of the People’s Parliament, said the 2008 constitution would be amended in the next parliament he was criticised by Chin political parties who said it should be amended before the election.

Salai Kye O Beak Htaung, secretary 2 of the Chin National Democratic Party said: “In his speech Thura U Shwe Man said that constitutional amendment will happen after the 2015 election. We absolutely cannot accept that, it is not his concern. He may not win in the 2015 election and might not become a member of parliament. He is not in a position to say such things, it will be down to the next chairman of parliament to make constitutional amendments. If he cannot amend the constitution he should just confess that he is unable to do it.”

Ethnic parties registered and entered politics under the rules of the 2008 constitution and they founded their political parties to amend the constitution through political negotiation. They want constitutional amendment before the 2015 election because the election may bring in unforeseen changes to the political landscape that could make constitutional amendment far harder to achieve, said Chin political parties.

U No Htan Kap, chairman of the Chin Progressive Party (CPP) said: “It is absolutely best that the constitution is amended as quickly as possible.”

Salai Kye O Beak Htaung said: “If the constitution is not amended before the election we may have to deal with hardliners elected to the new parliament who will not accept negotiation and compromise. If we do not choose the route of constitutional amendment the situation may deteriorate and become very bad and people will suffer.”

At the 18th November press conference where Thura U Shwe Man made his speech about constitutional amendment he also said that the main barrier to constitutional amendment was section 436. This states that over 75 percent of parliamentarians must vote to change the constitution. As the army is automatically granted 25 percent of the seats at least one of their representatives would have to vote for constitutional change, which is very unlikely.

Thura U Shwe Man said he will discuss amendment of section 436 with the president and chief of the Burma Army to come up with an amendment bill which will be ratified in parliament after the 2015 elections.

He added that he had planned it this way because the 2015 elections are to be conducted according to the 2008 constitution and if the constitution were to be amended before the election there could be changes to the current administrative body and government.

Salai Kye O Beak Htaung said: “There might be secret collusion between the government, parliament and the army – these people originally all came from the same group. It is significant that the army does not like the amendment, it cannot be said that U Thein Sein and U Shwe Man are 100 percent civilians, even though they no longer wear uniforms.”

Thura U Shwe Man said at the press conference that all discussions and results for the constitutional amendment need to be completed by 25th December so that a referendum on the sections to be amended can be held in January 2015. He also said that the 2015 election will be held under the rules of the 2008 constitution.

Translated by Aung Myat Soe English version written by Mark Inkey for BNI