Why did it happen? (Myanmar/Burma)

So, Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal has been impeached. Despite this, it’s still not entirely clear why the legislature was so adamant in pursuing impeachment. Why did it matter so much that legislative committees be considered “union-level organizations”?

Aung Htoo, a human rights lawyer affiliated with the Burma Lawyer’s Council, argues in a DVB op-ed that:

… MPs would like to earn allowances on par with union ministers. They would achieve this if the affairs committees of the Hluttaws were recognised as constitutional institutions on the union level in accordance with a new law. If this were to happen, then the state would have to cover the enormous expenditure incurred by the operations of the 30 affairs committees. 

Another concern that people have is that these committees include not only MPs, but also non-MPs as members – for example, Toe Naing Mahn (Shwe Mann’s son). As a result, the number of affairs committee members is influx [sic]. Thus, the state would be forced to cover all the expenses and allowances for those members on the same level as government ministers.

In some ways, this fits what one might expect in a transitioning political system coming out of the shadows of a corrupt military regime. However, I don’t buy the expectation quite yet. First, the petition for impeachment received the support of almost all non-military MPs, including the NLD and ethnic minority parties. Thus, each of those groups must have had some motivation to support impeachment, even though not all MPs serve on committees.

Second, it is a bit hard for me to imagine Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition joining the USDP going along with a money grab. This most recent crisis was reignited when Daw Suu beam chairperson of the rule of law committee. Other people I’ve talked to have said MPs thought the tribunal decision would have weakened the ability of committees to subpoena ministers.

Even though the justices have been removed, we’re only just beginning to understand what happened. I hope one day somebody writes a definitive history on this.

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2 Comments

Filed under Burma, constitutional tribunal, impeachment, Myanmar

2 responses to “Why did it happen? (Myanmar/Burma)

  1. It's hard to see parliament's successful impeachment as a triumph of the country's infant democracy b'coz judges they unseated are experienced judicial personalities, perhaps some know even more of law than MPs. But the tribunal chairman is just one-in-many military retiree. Either sides failed to put forward sound reasons. It's just a legal error of which the correction is sought in judicial arena. If there's a fight in Myanmar, the larger side always wins.

  2. I agree. Modern, effective democracy requires strong institutions. I think impeachment was a triumph for the Hluttaw, or at least a chance to flex its muscles. But it could be a defeat for checks and balances.