The Karen National Union has expressed concerns about the difficulties of amending the 2008 constitution following talks with President U Thein Sein last week.
KNU secretary 2 Pado Saw Mann Mann said at a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on January 5 that the issue was “an additional problem” for the group as it seeks to cement peace with the central government.
“The government said that if the constitution is to be amended, it shall be done legally or in the hluttaw. We don’t object to this but there are many restrictions to amending it. For example, we will have to start by amending the amendment clause in the constitution before changing other things like chapters or clauses,” he said.
“The president said to us [we should] balance amending the constitution from both inside and outside of the hluttaw,” he said.
He said the constitution is not clear on how power is shared between national and regional governments and legislatures and also does not enshrine equality for all ethnic minorities.
“It is important to be able to freely determine our own concept of national identity. The most basic thing is education. We believe that this is also something that the government won’t find it difficult to allow,” he said.
He said the government should be “patient and sympathetic” to the wishes of minorities because they have experienced civil war for more than 60 years.
“They need to understand this from our perspective. If they respond unnecessarily, without understanding anything, there can be unexpected consequences. We also said this to the president when we met him,” Pado Saw Mann Mann said.
He also said that if armed groups and groups that have reached peace agreements choose not to run in the 2015 general election or establish a political party they should not be declared unlawful.
“Political problems should be settled politically, step by step.”
The constitution states that the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw shall agree to discuss a proposed amendment to the constitution if it is supported by at least 20 percent of all parliamentarians.
However, the amendment must win the support of at least 75pc of parliamentarians to be considered approved. Additionally, section 436(a) lists a number of chapters where changes must also be put to a national referendum if they are approved by 75pc of MPs.
Translated by Thit Lwin