Military Supporters Hold Myitkyina Rally to Defend 2008 Constitution

Military Supporters Hold Myitkyina Rally to Defend 2008 Constitution , August 16, 2019

The counter-demonstration follows a thousands-strong protest the day before, which called for the charter to be changed.

Supporters of the military and the military-backed the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) held a counter-rally in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina following a demonstration last week calling for the 2008 Constitution to be amended.

The counter-protest was held on Friday in favor of preserving the current military-drafted Constitution, which is described by critics as being widely undemocratic and entrenching the army in politics.

Some 500 people participated in the counter-rally, but the day before, 6,000 people protested in favor of changing the Constitution.

“We are demanding that some points be amended and some points not,” rally organizer Ngwa Thar told KNG.

One article that he said he did not want to see changed was Article 59(f), which bars anyone with a foreign spouse or children from holding the office of the presidency. This law has been used to effectively keep State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the position.

“It could damage national security if it is amended… citizens will lose citizenship rights. We don’t want to change it,” he said but did not elaborate on how he felt it would degrade citizenship rights.

A change the pro-military demonstrators are open to, according to Ngwa Thar, is amending Article 261, which dictates that state and regional chief ministers are appointed by the President.

“We want parliamentarians in regions and ethnic states to elect their chief minister,” he said.

This call was echoed by lawyer Doi Bu, who told KNG that if a local political party wins the majority of seats in Kachin State, they cannot form the state government—that is left to the central government. She said it limits the chances of an ethnic party winning in the 2020 election.

Another rally organizer, Brang Shawng, said that amending the charter should not be rushed.

“Many representatives took time to draw up this Constitution. They don’t need to urgently change this Constitution. We want them to only make possible changes in line with the law,” he told KNG.

Demonstrators at Friday’s event carried signs and banners bearing statements such as, “don’t change the important articles in the 2008 Constitution,” and “defeat people who depend on foreign countries,” and “we won’t accept the influence of non-citizens on our country.”

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