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Campaign to change Myanmar's constitution exceeds expectations

Myanmar's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, said the public support for their campaign to amend the country's constitution far exceeded their expectations. The campaign calls on citizens to support a constitutional amendment by signing their names.

YANGON: Myanmar's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, said the public support for their campaign to amend the country's constitution far exceeded their expectations. The campaign calls on citizens to support a constitutional amendment by signing their names.

So far, the NLD has received 3.3 million signatures, but it expects that number to rise to more than ten million.

The campaign aims to push for a change in the rule that requires more than 75 per cent of parliament support before the constitution can be amended. Under the current constitution, the military has a mandatory 25 per cent representation in parliament, giving it power to veto any changes.

The NLD says that the rule, known as section 436, is undemocratic.

The party is encouraged by the number of signatures it has gathered.

Nyan Win, a member of the NLD's central executive committee, said: "The Burmese people want change in politics and economy... So the people support the signature campaign."

The campaign, which started on May 27, will wrap up on July 19, Myanmar's Martyrs' Day, before the signatures are submitted to the President and Parliament.

Nyan Win added: "As (the number of signatures) is more than what was expected, the parliament will have to re-think (the rule). We're trying to give the knowledge about the campaign.

"In this parliament, most of the people, except the army officers, all are elected by the people. So they want to take care of these people's will. The people want change, so the (government) will have to consider it... This is their duty."

However, some have questioned whether every signature is authentic and if the citizens understand what they are signing for. Observers said that initially, some citizens were merely signing to show support for the NLD and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myat Thu, a board member of the Yangon School of Political Science, said: "But after the campaigning and a lot of public speeches, people are now aware about section 436 of the constitution... It shows that many, many people are now interested in politics. Because without participation, the people know that they will not get democracy in the near future."

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party members Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they were unavailable for comment on this issue.

However, the Speaker of Parliament as well as the leader of the ruling party has recently said that such a campaign will have little influence on how parliament intends to amend the constitution. Many will be watching very closely to see how the President as well as the government will respond once the signatures are submitted to them.

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