Analysis: Can Burma find a solution for its constitutional dilemma?
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Analysis: Can Burma find a solution for its constitutional dilemma?

Burma’s quasi-civilian government headed by President Thein Sein has declared itself as a reformist administration since it took power in March 2011. Now, it has to meet head-on a major challenge in order to show its true color concerning constitutional revision which has been calling by various oppositions.

As demands for constitutional amendment increasey, the Union Parliament of Burma accepted a proposal to form a 109-member Joint Committee to Review the 2008 Constitution on 25 July with the intention of examining possible changes. The committee was formed with members of parliament, members of political parties, military MPs and individuals.

A three-day Ethnic Conference organized by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) that ended on 31 July in Chiang Mai, Thailand unanimously rejected the military-sponsored 2008 constitution, after debate. A total of 122 delegates appeared at the conference: representing the UNFC-member organizations, 18 resistance organizations, the United Nationality Alliance, 4 political parties of ethnic nationalities, academics and active individuals.

According to the statement dated 2 August issued by the UNFC, the historic conference unanimously adopted the following important positions and decisions:

To form the present Union of Burma/Myanmar into a Federal Union of national states and nationalities states, having national equality and self-determination; To practice federal democracy in this Federal Union; To form federal union defense forces that will defend the Federal Union from external dangers; The current 2008 Constitution practiced by U Thein Sein government is not accepted, as it is devoid of democratic essence and not in accordancewith the principles of federalism; A new constitution based on genuine federal principles willbe drafted and promoted fpr practice; The UNFC and the UNA will lead in drafting the newconstitution, and a drafting committee consisting of representatives from the democratic forces, women organizations, youth organizations, CBOs, and other organizations will be formed, as part of the realization of the aim; In political dialogue and negotiation, the 6-point political program laid down by the Ethnic National Conference held in September 2012 will be followed; In political dialogue and negotiation, all the resistance organizations are to be represented as a bloc, and not individually.

After the three-day conference, the ethnic nationalities delegates held meetings on 1 August with representatives from eight democratic forces from inside and abroad and agreed to jointly carry out the common aims.

As reported by Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) on 18 July, the remaining Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC) members, particularly the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), upon receiving reports that the UNFC had already called for an ‘Ethnic Conference for Peace and Reconciliation’, said a parallel conference would only cause confusion.

An unconfirmed report said the WGEC may be planning to hold a conference inside Burma.

An ethnic outcry said that a nationwide ceasefire agreement without adequate guarantees of political dialogue and monitoring mechanisms is unacceptable. There is a constant demand from the country’s ethnic groups to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution must guarantee the rights of self-determination and of equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament.

The new charter itself emerged in the course of a charade referendum (May 2008) cynically held a after a week of the Nargis cyclone that caused more than 138,000 deaths and left millions homeless. The bill was ratified by the parliament in January 2011. The biggest flaw in the constitution is the privileged 25 percent of the seats in the parliament are set aside for soldiers who are basically appointed to the legislative body by the commander-in-chief.

Aung San Suu Kyi has affirmed her readiness to run for president if the Constitution is amended to allow her to do so. Suu Kyi said it is her duty as leader of her National League for Democracy to be willing to take the executive office if that is what the people want. She said a clause in the constitution effectively barring her from the job is one of several her party seeks to change.