Kalay Group Defends Military-Drafted 2008 Constitution

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Around 1,000 people in Kalay, Sagaing Region, gathered on Sunday morning demanding to keep an article in the 2008 Constitution regarding presidential requirements. The protest was led by the Kalay Township National Forces (KTNF).

The KTNF was jointly organized by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the National Unity Party, ultranationalist Buddhist organization Ma Ba Tha, and the Kalay Farmers Association.

The KTNF protesters were calling to preserve Article 59(f) of the 2008 Constitution, which states the requirements for individuals to become the President or Vice President of Burma. It says that people who serve in these roles cannot be, be married to, or be the parent of someone with citizenship in a foreign country.

“If the 2008 Constitution is amended, foreign or mixed-blooded people could become the president of our nation,” U Aung Moe, a member of the KTNF, told Khonumthung, alleging that this was the wish of the late Gen Aung San. “We will oppose it if someone tries to amend the current Constitution.”

Those who participated in Sunday’s demonstration held signs declaring that those who try to amend the Constitution “are our enemy,” as are “the people who look for foreign power.” Protesters also declared that they would “not accept anyone who are not our ethnic people.”

Participants marched from the football grounds at Shwe Bone Thar monastery to the statue of Gen Aung San in downtown Kalay.

Some protesters clarified that they are not opposed to other amendments to the Constitution beyond Article 59(f), and described their approach as being inspired by their nationalism.

“If people want to change the 2008 Constitution, they can change it accordance with the process of constitutional amendments. This protest is not protecting the 2008 constitution, but [showing that]we want to keep Article 59(f) in the Constitution,” U Zay Yar, a protest leader, said. Current State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was married to British national Michael Aris, blocking her from the presidency in Burma.

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