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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 828

Burma Reform remains fragile due to existing constitution

By - Zin Linn

Do grassroots of Burma believe the changes run by the President Thein Sein Government? To be frank, working-class including farmers go up against the current situation as a change. Actually, the previous military junta has changed their outfits before a social revolution similar to Arab Spring took place.

Concomitantly, the country was under criticism due to its incompetent procedure for current reform. Although the poverty alleviation is one of its reform items, farmers and workers are in distress as their lands and properties have been unlawfully confiscated by the military, local authorities and cronies. As a result, unemployment problem has been seriously come forward and more than five millions of unemployed citizens have to leave the homeland in the hunt for jobs in neighboring countries.

Besides, the government is too reluctant to stop the ongoing civil war with its ethnic groups. Especially the war in Kachin state produces several thousands of IDPs and refugees along the Sino-Burma border. Without stopping such war against its own people, who will believe this government’s promise for change.

Although using the term change, the quasi-civilian government led by Thein Sein has taken shape with former military generals. As a result, the common sense of insecurity is increased by the system of Burma's political attempt, which was outlined by the latest 2008 Constitution drawn by the previous junta.

The new charter itself emerged in the course of a charade referendum (May 2008) which held unfairly after a week of the Nargis cyclone that caused more than 138,000 dead and millions homeless. The bill was ratified by the parliament in January 2011. The biggest flaw in the constitution is the privileged 25 percent of the seats in the parliament are set aside for the soldiers who are basically appointed to the legislative body by the commander-in-chief.

Moreover, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a landslide in the polls which declared seizing 882 out of 1154 seats in parliaments. Remarkably, 77 percent of the parliamentary seats have been seized by the military-backed USDP in the 2010 polls which were distinguished for vote-rigging show.

Aung San Suu Kyi has declared her willingness to serve as her country's president and her party's intention to amend the undemocratic clauses in the constitution to allow her to do so, according to 8 October AP News. Suu Kyi said it is her duty as leader of her National League for Democracy to be willing to take the executive office if that is what the people want. She said a clause in the constitution effectively barring her from the job is one of several her party seeks to change.

According to a provision of the constitution, a citizen with relatives who hold foreign citizenship is not eligible to serve as president or vice-president of Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has two sons holding British citizenship.

During a visit to India, Chairperson of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed an audience in Delhi on November 16 that the general election to be held in 2015 will not be fair, even though it is free, lacking compulsory amendments of the constitution.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that all parties in Burma, not just parliament, should make efforts to amend the country’s constitution, warning that the current charter cannot ensure credible elections in 2015, according to Radio Free Asia (Burmese Service). She also urged Burmese people inside and outside of the country ought to endeavor bringing amendments to the constitution as she totally agreed the task.

In August 2012, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) sent a group of senior Asia specialists to Burma to explore the political, economic, and social reforms launched by the new civilian government and develop policy recommendations for the U.S. government.

In its findings CSIS says, “Political and economic reforms launched by President U Thein Sein and his allies and broadly supported by opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appear to be real, but the process for implementing and institutionalizing those changes remains fragile and is not irreversible.”

However, after nearly five decades of military rule, some of the hardest political stumbling blocks remain, as well as a military that still seizes the decisive power. For example, the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council with the President keeps hold of the constitutional right to declare emergency declaration at any time.

Most important case is that even though the government has repeatedly said to restore rule of law, its respective authorities, including the local administrators, judges and police, are still abusing the power without restraint. Besides, the military and its cronies are still above the law. As a result, corruption is at large.

In such a moment, President’s reform strategy may not have chance to convince the average people who have no opportunity to enjoy even their basic citizen’s rights. Presently, farmers, workers and students are launching respective protests in respective areas to call their basic needs and rights.

- Asian Tribune -

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