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June 26, 2017

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Myanmar set to review disputed constitution from 2008: state media

YANGON -- Myanmar's parliament has agreed to review the country's 2008 constitution, state media said Saturday, in a tentative step towards amending a document that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

The report did not detail the elements set for review in the document, which was adopted following a controversial referendum held in the days after a cyclone killed tens of thousands of people and left swathes of the country in chaos.

Crafted by the military junta, the constitution blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from running for leadership of the country.

Suu Kyi's two sons with her late husband Michael Aris are British and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at the Nobel laureate.

The document also reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military, guaranteeing their political influence despite the democratic reforms overseen by President Thein Sein since his government took power in 2011.

Myanmar's lower house approved a motion made Friday to set up a committee of "law experts and intellectuals" to conduct the review, state-mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar reported, adding the document needs to conform "with the current situation of the country due to (the) reforming process."

The report did not say if the foreign citizen clause or the military's allocation of seats would be up for review by the panel.

Myanmar's 60 million people will vote in much-anticipated general elections in 2015 with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) widely expected to win.

The bill was tabled by a lawmaker from Thein Sein's ruling USDP party, prompting a cautious welcome from some parliamentarians who have called for the constitution to be re-written.

"We can say that the road to democracy is more visible as the ruling party itself talked about the amendment of the constitution," said Ohn Kyaing, lower house MP and NLD spokesman, but warned that "we do not know their next step."

Suu Kyi, NLD chairman and herself a lawmaker, has said any amendments to the constitution should not be based on whether she decides to run for the presidency.

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