Myanmar's parliament blocks bid by Suu Kyi party to reduce army power


  • World
  • Tuesday, 10 Mar 2020

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi waits for arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, January 18, 2020. Nyein Chan Naing/Pool via REUTERS

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar’s parliament blocked a bid by the party of leader Aung San Suu Kyi to reduce the role of the military in politics on Tuesday, almost a decade into a troubled democratic transition.

In the first day of voting on a series of proposed constitutional amendments, lawmakers vetoed changes backed by the ruling party that would have altered the 2008 charter drafted by the former ruling military junta.

The rejected amendments would have gradually reduced the number of military MPs, over a period of 15 years, and abolished a section that names the commander-in-chief of the defence services as the "supreme commander of all armed forces".

The constitution guarantees military members of parliament a quarter of the seats in the legislature. Any changes to the charter require the approval of more than two thirds of lawmakers, giving the army an effective veto.

A spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) did not answer telephone calls seeking comment. A government spokesman declined to answer questions.

Lawmakers also rejected removing the word "disciplined" from the definition of the country's political system as a "genuine, disciplined multi-party democratic system".

But they approved an amendment that would allow civil servants to belong to political parties.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has been under pressure to show progress on constitutional reform - seen as a major stumbling block to democratic hopes – ahead of a general election expected later this year.

She took power in 2016 after a landslide election win, vowing to continue democratic reforms that began in 2011 and end the country’s long-running civil wars.

Since then, the administration has come under foreign pressure over a 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya minority, as well as escalating ethnic conflict.

Myanmar has been accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice in the Hague but denies the charges, saying it was carrying out a legitimate campaign against Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.

Voting on other proposed amendments will continue until March 20, although analysts say the military veto means they are unlikely to pass.

Key sections the NLD aim to reform include one that blocks Suu Kyi from the presidency on account of her foreign-born children, who are British citizens.

(Editing by Nick Tattersall)

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