Why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s proposal should not be deferred
09 December 2013: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sent a letter addressed to President Thein Sein, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Armed Forces, and Thura Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (the Assembly of the Union) in November 2013. In her letter, she requested them to have a face-to-face meeting to find a way to amend the Constitution of Burma. But, the request was put on hold.
Ye Htut, a spokesman of President Thein Sein, said the reason why her request wasn’t met yet was because they wanted to wait for the outcome of the findings by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’s constitution review joint committee, and they needed to consider all stakeholders. But Thura Shwe Man didn’t repudiate her request, nor did he accept it in public although he is widely known to be a supporter of amending the constitution.
At the same time, the President’s spokesman hinted at the probable incentive for saying that the meeting can take place after the committee’s findings are known. This committee, which is supposed to submit in January 2014, has 52 MPs from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), 25 from the military bloc and 7 from the National League for Democracy (NLD). This raises a question: ‘Will its findings impartially reflect the desire of the people?’ because the majority of the committee’s members are USDP and military whose impartiality remains unknown.
Meanwhile, the NLD issued a statement which labeled President Thein Sein’s government as being unwilling for reform, because their leader’s demand was not accepted. But interestingly, the statement didn’t direct anything at Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, nor did it condemn him as resistant to reform. But it strongly targeted President Thein Sein’s government with its criticism.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, recently spoke of the flaws in the constitution during her visit to Australia. She spoke at length about its undemocratic nature during a speech at the Sydney Opera House: “Those of you who think that Burma has successfully taken the path to reform would be mistaken. If you want to know why you are mistaken, you only have to study the Burmese constitution… if you read it carefully; you will understand why we cannot have genuine democracy under such a constitution.”
She also highlighted the influential role of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in amending the constitution. She said: “The decision of the commander-in-chief plays a key role in constitutional reform. Twenty-five percent of the parliament represents military members who are directly appointed by the commander-in-chief. This twenty-five percent is not elected by public vote. If the constitution is amended, it will be possible to do so only with the support of military members. If the commander-in-chief wants it so, military members will cast their votes for the constitutional amendment. If not, military members will object.”
She has been in parliament since she took an oath on 2 May 2012, and now she seems to be realizing that the driving force of politics in Burma is actually in three men’s hands. That’s why she seeks to deal directly with President Thein Sein, Senior general Min Aung Hlaing, Thura Shwe Man, instead of raising the agenda in the parliaments. Of course, Burma’s parliaments couldn’t do very much without the blessing of President Thein Sein and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. In fact, Burma’s parliaments are young, and, in addition, some of its representatives are under command or control. That’s why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proposed to meet face-face with them.
Indeed, the future of Burma looks pretty much dependent on how much these four leaders can work together toward democracy. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s proposal is a very realistic political approach in current Burma politics to break down the lock in amending the country’s constitution because she knows how to and who the key holders are. That’s probably why she proposed them for the meeting.
To tee off the country’s move forward (as Burma President Thein Sein often said, quoting US President Obama’s speech), no one, including the Military Chief and President himself, should demur at her proposal for the meeting as it may push Burma’s democratic change further. Also, their meeting will not make anyone a loser, but the country can benefit from it.# – Salai Z T Lian