Is that your final answer? (Myanmar/Burma)

A few weeks ago, the Hluttaw voted to amend the Constitutional Tribunal Law. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen an English-language translation of the changes. Fortunately, we now have an insight into the debates through an op-ed by U Ye Tun, Pyithu Hluttaw MP from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party for Hsipaw in northern Shan State. Ye Tun wrote in The Myanmar Times explaining his decision to vote against amendments to the Constitutional Tribunal Law.

Ye Tun spells out two complaints. First, the amendments require the Tribunal members to report to the president, Pyithu Hluttaw speaker, and Amyotha Hluttaw speaker about their activities. Ye Tun fears that this would make the Tribunal members responsive to the bodies that appointed them. Rather, Ye Tun would have preferred language simply requiring the members to submit a formal message that would allow the members to keep their distance from the politicians.

Second, Ye Tun worries that the law will undermine the finality of Constitutional Tribunal decisions. The way he interprets the changes, the Tribunal decisions will only be final if they reached the court on appeal from the ordinary courts through § 323 of the Constitution. In other words, cases submitted by the president, speakers, etc. would not constitute the final word on the constitution.
U Ye Tun’s concerns are very real and potentially troubling. If the Constitutional Tribunal’s independence is undermined and the finality of its opinions questioned, then it will not be able to play an impartial adjudicatory role between the branches. Members might be viewed primarily as agents of their appointing bodies rather than as neutral arbiters. In short, as Ye Tun warns, the Tribunal might become more controversial without becoming more effective.

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