Myanmar Suu Kyi’s party set to challenge army-drafted charter: sources

Aung San Suu Kyi belongs to the ruling party National League for Democracy. (File/Reuters)
Updated 29 January 2019
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Myanmar Suu Kyi’s party set to challenge army-drafted charter: sources

  • The military retains a strong political role in Myanmar
  • The military also controls key security ministries, such as defense and home affairs, and owns sprawling business enterprises

NAYPYITAW: Myanmar’s ruling party was set on Tuesday to propose changes to the constitution, a lawmaker and a party source said, its biggest challenge in nearly three years to the military power enshrined in the charter.
The move could boost tension between the military, which retains a strong political role, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which have been at loggerheads over the charter since the party’s historic landslide win in 2015.
The surprise move comes as both civilian and military leaders, face growing international pressure over a brutal army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017 that sent about 730,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
“They are going to submit the proposal today,” Ye Htut, an NLD upper house lawmaker for the northern region of Sagaing, told Reuters. “It is the election promise.”
At a short meeting with its MPs on Monday, the party’s central executive panel briefed them on the plans for Tuesday’s vote, said Ye Htut, who attended the gathering.
A second party source confirmed the amendment motion was to be presented at parliament’s Tuesday session.
Party spokesman Myo Nyunt declined to comment. Reuters was unable to seek comment from the parliamentary office.
The parliamentary agenda reviewed by Reuters does not show the proposal, but political analyst Yan Myo Thein said it was possible to submit a new one at the end of the session, with the speaker’s approval, or call an afternoon session to submit it.
It was not clear what provisions of the constitution the proposal would target or whether the NLD had secured the buy-in from the military necessary to pass such a measure.
The 2008 charter, drafted during the rule of the military junta, guarantees the army a quarter of parliamentary seats in the two houses. Constitutional changes require votes of more than 75 percent, giving the army an effective veto.
In the past, some members of Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi’s party have expressed their desire to amend Article 436 of the constitution, which lays out the rules.
The military also controls key security ministries, such as defense and home affairs, and owns sprawling business enterprises that control or affect broad swathes of the economy.
Another possible target may be a constitutional prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children.
Suu Kyi had two sons with a British academic, so the measure effectively bars her from the office. But for nearly three years, she has ruled Myanmar from “above the president” by creating a powerful new position of State Counsellor.


Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

Updated 46 min 2 sec ago
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Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

  • Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied
  • One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland

ZURICH: Switzerland’s parliament approved allowing convicted militants to be sent home to countries where they could face torture, leaving the government to decide how to implement the motion without breaking international law.
The Swiss constitution bans expelling people to countries where they might be subject to torture. But parlimament’s upper house on Tuesday narrowly adopted a motion allowing exceptions for foreign militants, as the Swiss lower house had done.
The motion stems from discontent among lawmakers over the ability of Iraqi militants convicted in Swiss courts of aiding Daesh to avoid being sent home because of the ban on exposing people to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Conservative critics say the ban has cost taxpayer money to care for convicted militants and angered citizens who say Switzerland should not have to host such people on its soil.
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied.
“The security of the Swiss population has top priority but we also have to adhere to the limits of the rule of law.”
One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland. Freed from prison, he now lives in a transit center for asylum seekers and is fighting extradition.
Switzerland said this month it would not help bring home its own stranded citizens who had joined extremist forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.
Switzerland is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture, which bars expulsions of people to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Iraq is also a party to the convention, but lacks laws or guidelines providing for judicial action when defendants allege torture or mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. It said torture was rampant in Iraq’s justice system.