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Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), spoke to her party supporters at a public assembly in Karen State capital Hpa-an on 18 January, declaring that the 2008 Constitution stands in the way of peace between the military and the people of Burma.
“The effort to reconcile the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] and the people is made difficult by the way the constitution was written, so it must be amended,” she said, urging her supporters to take a clear stand on constitutional reforms.
The event was attended by around 40,000 people, according to an NLD official.
The party delegation went on to another Karen State town, Hlaingbwe, where a similar public assembly was held and joined by some 30,000 people.
Suu Kyi’s Karen State appearances follow a similar tour through Burma’s western Chin State, where she also held rallies in several towns to explain the party’s stance on constitutional reform and urge popular support for several changes, including the proposed lifting of Article 59(f), which bars the opposition leader from assuming the Presidency.
Among other contentious sections of the military-drafted charter are the designation of 25 percent military representation in parliament and 75 percent parliamentary approval for amendments.
Party executive Win Htein said 90 percent of attendees in Hpa-an and Hlaingbwe wished to see the constitution amended, according to a survey following the assembly.
Likewise, nationwide assessments conducted throughout 2013 and early 2014, which gauged public opinion about whether to amend or completely rewrite the Constitution, also indicated that 90 percent of those surveyed supported amendment.
“According to surveys conducted in Naypyidaw, Kawhmu and Tharawaddy townships, and in Chin and Karen States, the majority wished to see the constitution amended rather than completely rewritten,” said Win Htein.
A government-established Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution charged with recommending modifications is due to finish compiling requested changes by 31 January. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party have expressed openness to revisions.
Suu Kyi’s speech, which preceded an upcoming round of peace talks between ethnic armed groups and a government peace-building team in Hpa-an, centered on constitutional clauses that hamper the ongoing attempts at peace and reconciliation between the two sides, which have struggled with civil war and ethnic conflict for decades.
The upcoming peace negotiations, which have twice been postponed but are set to resume in February, are geared towards implementing a nationwide ceasefire and setting a plan of action for political settlement and national reconciliation.