Election body warns Suu Kyi over charter change speeches

Election body warns Suu Kyi over charter change speeches
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech calling for the amendment of the 2008 Constitution at a rally in Aungpinlae Stadium in Mandalay, May 18, 2014.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has sent a notice letter to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on May 22, reprimanding her for giving speeches in public seeking to amend the constitution.

The UEC has said that the speeches organised by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and 88 Generation and Open Society in Mandalay were in breach of the Party Act and other laws which provide official channels to seek constitutional amendments.

"Their letter quoted the words used by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Although the letter says her actions are in breach of the law, we cannot see clearly which ones it means. What I am sure is we now have experienced the suppression from every angle. By seeing current situations, we can say that the 2015 general election will not be free and fair," said Myo Yan Naung Thein, General Secretary of Fair and Free Election Watch Network.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win and other senior party persons were not able to comment and some central executive committee members said they had no idea about the notice.

Opposition parties, civil society organisations, and the public have been giving speeches across the country and are collecting a nation-wide petition to amend the 2008 military-drafted constitution.

"Everything we have done is officially permitted and in conformity with democratic norms. And I want to highlight what they have missed. Both of our joint statements have cleared that we would reform the charter without hurting national reconciliation and the order of the law. I think the UEC has neglected this statement. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has every right to challenge those who are craving only for more power. I believe the UEC interprets this as they wish," said Ko Jimmy from the 88 Generation and Open Society.

The NLD and 88 activists have been campaigning to amend Section 436 of the current charter as it makes it near impossible to make any changes. The current law mandates a 75 per cent majority in parliament to approve any changes followed by a national referendum.

This gives the military de facto veto power on any proposals brought about through parliament. The current constitution also bars Suu Kyi from participating in next years general election.

In a recent speech she challenged the army to prove themselves to the people, urging them to work towards the good of the country rather than their own interests.

"I want to urge the military to prove that they are not power hungry people, not hungry only for opportunities and a good position. In other words, I would like to challenge the military men, I challenge you," said Suu Kyi.

The Union Election Commission mentioned Suu Kyi's words and called her to abide by the current laws that she signed when registering the NLD party in 2011.

"In the Chapter 12 of the constitution, Articles 433 to 436 state the instructions to use in amending constitution. As the Article 434 says 'the draft to amend the constitution must be submitted to the Union Parliament', there is an effort in the parliament to modify the constitution complying with the law," said the EUC notice.

Members of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society claimed the UEC's notice goes astray and will only deepen the disappointment of those hoping for national reconciliation and a free and fair election next year.


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