Myanmar state press says no charter change for now

AP News
Posted: Dec 20, 2009 5:26 AM

Myanmar's new constitution, adopted last year despite criticism it is undemocratic, cannot be changed before next year's planned elections, the country's state media said in a commentary Sunday.

The article, which appeared Sunday in the New Light of Myanmar and other newspapers, appeared to be warning the National League for Democracy party of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi that its complaints will not be heeded.

The party has not yet committed itself to taking part in the polls because it claims the new charter is unfair. It is seeking a dialogue with the military government.

Commentaries in state-run media normally reflect the view of the military government, or sometimes take more extreme positions to test public and international reaction without the regime officially committing itself.

Sunday's commentary confirmed the government's previously stated position that it will not change the terms of the charter, which guarantees 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the military and allows the president to hand over all power to the military in a state of emergency.

It also has clauses that and would bar Suu Kyi from holding office.

The article also said that the constitution can only be amended by the new parliament that will emerge from the 2010 election.

Myanmar's military government has said it will hold a general election next year, but has not yet set an exact date or passed the necessary laws. Suu Kyi's party won the last election in 1990, but the military refused to allow it to take power.

"The demand for amendment to the constitution through discussions and a dialogue with them is beyond fulfillment," said the commentary. "A group of people has no exclusive right to amend the constitution that has been approved in a democratic way."

The article did not mention any group or individual but Suu Kyi's party and several other democratic groups have charged that the constitution was illegally approved by force, and urged the government to review it.

Suu Kyi recently asked for a meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe but did not mention anything about the constitution, saying only that "she wanted to explain how she can cooperate with the junta in the interest of the country."

The commentary said the constitution was approved by the people and that ambassadors and military attaches in Myanmar were allowed to observe the voting and the result has been recognized.

Myanmar's generals claimed the constitution received the approval of more than 92 percent of voters in last year's referendum, conducted in the wake of devastating Cyclone Nargis.