Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Burma: Constitution Under Legislative Review

(Aug. 23, 2013) In July 2013, a 109-member multi-party committee was formed in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the two-house Parliament of Burma (also called Myanmar), to review that country’s 2008 Constitution. (Win Ko Ko Latt, Constitutional Change in Hands of Government: Shwe Mann, MYANMAR TIMES (Aug. 18, 2013).)

One focus of public discussion has been on the Constitution’s section 59(f), which requires that the President and Vice-President, and their spouses, children, and parents, not “owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country. They shall not be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government or citizen of a foreign country.” (Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website.) This provision would bar world-renowned human rights defender Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President, due to her children’s British citizenship. She has stated that she would be interested in running for the presidency. (Latt, supra.)

Under the Constitution, amendments must be in the form of a bill submitted by 20% of the members of the legislature, and then passed by 75% of those members. In addition, amendment of some provisions requires passage by a majority of the eligible voters in a national referendum. (Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008), Ch. 12, arts. 433-436.)

On August 16, 2013, Thura U Shwe Mann, leader of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw acknowledged that amending the Constitution depends on the constitutional review committee, but stated that the executive branch should also take part in the process. (Latt, supra.) In his words, “it’s very important the administration is involved. Whenever a law is enacted, the involvement of the administrative body is very important.” (Myanmar Government “Pivotal” in Constitutional Change, BANGKOK POST (Aug. 17, 2013).) Shwe Mann’s statement has been interpreted by another member of the legislature, U Ye Tun, as referring to internal party dynamics, rather than to actual, constitutional procedure. (Latt, supra.)

Reportedly, some other MPs are concerned that, because 25% of the parliamentary seats are filled with members of the military appointed by the commander-in-chief, their cooperation could in theory also be important to any attempt to amend the Constitution. (Id.)