Oath row shadows Myanmar politics

Oath row shadows Myanmar politics

YANGON, Myanmar
Oath row shadows Myanmar politics

Newly appointed military representatives of the Myanmar Parliament take an oath during the third session. The Parliament convenes without opposition leader Suu Kyi. AFP photo

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party in Myanmar refused to take its new seats in Parliament yesterday because of a dispute over one word in the lawmakers’ oath, but party officials played down the problem and said they expected it to be overcome by early May.

The National League for Democracy party objects to phrasing in the oath that says they must “safeguard the constitution,” a document they have vowed to amend because it gives inordinate power to the military and was drafted during an era of army rule. The lawmakers want the word “safeguard” replaced with “respect.”

Change in constitution
Myanmar’s president, however, said yesterday that he has no plans to change the loyalty oath. Thein Sein said he would like to “welcome” the Nobel Peace prize winner into the chamber, but that it was up to her whether or not she took the seat she won earlier this month. Asked about any change to the constitution, the president was emollient. “It will be decided by the wishes of the people, the opinions of the people,” he said. Opposition spokesman Nyan Win said that he believed the dispute would be solved within 10 days, and other party officials have said there is support within Thein Sein’s government to change the oath.

Phyo Min Thein, one of the opposition’s newly elected lawmakers, said the party is pressing the issue because changing even an appendix to the constitution would be significant and highly symbolic. “We want them to change the wording because it will show people that the 2008 constitution can be changed,” he said.

The president affirmed that the process of democratization in the country would not be reversed. “There won’t be any U-turn,” Sein said. Since last year, President’s government has overseen a wave of widely praised political reforms, including the April 1 by-elections that earned Suu Kyi a parliamentary seat after years of repression. The EU is also expected to announce the suspension of most sanctions against Myanmar soon.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.