Well known US lawmaker urges Myanmar to amend constitution

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US Senator Mitch McConnell told Congress on August 1 that he has urged Myanmar to amend some clauses in its 2008 Constitution to promote national reconciliation and to guarantee civilian supremacy over the military. 

Senator McConnell also praised Myanmar for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners, and for making peace with ethnic armed groups and holding the general election. He said many things still left to be done for the country’s reforms. The amendment of the constitution played an important role in the democratic reforms, he said.

McConnell said the current constitution goes against democratic systems. If Myanmar wants development for a next step and has close relations with the US, it needs to amend its constitution, he said.

The first amendment to the constitution is to bring the military under the control of the civilian government. Tatmadaw [military] is under the control of the civilian government in every static democratic country. This point is the main barrier. The president is not a position of leading all armed forces. Tatmadaw is standing separately under the control of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, said Mitch McConnell.

Tatmadaw has the right to act in self-defense. But there is a problem of transparency over the skirmishes between the army and the Kachin ethnic forces. In this situation, the army went against the order of the President, said Mitch McConnell.

Undertaking joint military exercise cooperation with the US will make Myanmar’s Tatmadaw more qualified and less involved in political role, said Mitch McConnell.

The second is that the constitution should be amended to enable Myanmar people to choose the leader they like. This is basic principle of democracy. Restriction on being a president is very narrow and meaningless. The constitution was intended for 2015. If not amended, it will be questionable whether the 2015 elections are official or unofficial and it can bring bad effects, added Mitch McConnell.

The third is that executive pillar influences over judicial pillar. The independent judicial role is a very crucial factor. The last one is that the constitution can guarantee ethnics’ privileges. Ethnics' mistrust in the central government and the army need to be rooted out. For that reason, the constitution is required to protect privileges of ethnics, McConnell said.

Mitch McConnell an influential senator who constantly encouraged democratic reforms in Myanmar. In the past, he was also Republican representative and initiated in the process of imposing sanctions on Myanmar in the time of military regime. After meeting with President Thein Sein during the US tour, sanctions imposed on Myanmar were relieved.

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