YANGON – Myanmar’s civilian president called in an Independence Day speech on Thursday for reform of a military-drafted constitution and for justice for all recognized minorities under a federal system, but made no mention of the treatment of its Rohingya Muslim people.
Amending the charter to remove a dominant political role for the military has been one of the most contentious issues facing Myanmar as it emerges from nearly half a century of strict army rule.
The debate over constitutional reform, however, has been muted since the assassination in January last year of a lawyer advising government leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party on the issue.
“As we build the Democratic Federal Republic, in accordance with the results of the political dialogues, we all need to work collectively for creating a suitable constitution,” President Htin Kyaw said in his speech marking the 70th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from Britain.
Htin Kyaw’s post is largely ceremonial but he is a close ally of Suu Kyi. He did not elaborate on what he meant by suitable or spell out why he was suggesting the 2008 constitution drawn up by the military was unsuitable.
The constitution bars Suu Kyi from becoming president because it rules out candidates with a foreign spouse or child. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British as are her two sons.
It also reserves for the military one quarter of the seats in parliament and several major cabinet posts, including defense, interior and border affairs, giving it an effective veto over constitutional change and control of security affairs.