Constitution of Myanmar
|Constitution of Myanmar|
Page one of the original copy of the Constitution
|Created||9 April 2008|
|Ratified||29 May 2008|
|Purpose||To replace the 1974 Constitution of Burma|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burmese: ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော် ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေ [mjəmà nàɪɴŋàɴ pʰwɛ̰zíbòʊɴ ʔətɕèɡàɴ ʔṵbədè]) is the supreme law of Myanmar. Myanmar's first constitution was enacted for the Union of Burma in 1947. After the 1962 Burmese coup d'état, a second constitution was enacted in 1974. The country has been ruled by military juntas for most of its history.
The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) retain significant control of the government under the 2008 constitution. 25% of seats in the Parliament of Myanmar are reserved for serving military officers. The ministries of home, border affairs and defense have to be headed by a serving military officer. The military also appoints one of the country's two vice presidents. Hence, the country's civilian leaders have little influence over the security establishment.
The 1947 constitution was drafted by Chan Htoon and was used from the country's independence in 1948 to 1962, when the constitution was suspended by the socialist Union Revolutionary Council, led by Ne Win. The national government consisted of three branches: judicial, legislative and executive. The legislative branch was a bicameral legislature called the Union Parliament, consisting of two chambers, the 125-seat Chamber of Nationalities (လူမျိုးစုလွှတ်တော် Lumyozu Hluttaw) and the Chamber of Deputies (ပြည်သူ့လွှတ်တော် Pyithu Hluttaw), whose seat numbers were determined by the population size of respective constituencies. The 1947 constitution was largely based on the 1946 Yugoslav Constitution, and several Burmese officials visited Yugoslavia earlier that year.
Approved in a 1973 referendum, the 1974 constitution was the second constitution to be written. It created a unicameral legislature called the People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw), represented by members of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Each term was 4 years. Ne Win became the president at this time.
Upon taking power in September 1988, the military based State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) suspended the 1974 constitution. The SLORC called a constitutional convention in 1993, but it was suspended in 1996 when the National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted it, calling it undemocratic. The constitutional convention was again called in 2004, but without the NLD. Myanmar remained without a constitution until 2008.
On 9 April 2008, the military government of Myanmar (Burma) released its proposed constitution for the country to be put to a vote in public referendum on 10 May 2008, as part of its roadmap to democracy. The constitution is hailed by the military as heralding a return to democracy, but the opposition sees it as a tool for continuing military control of the country.
The legislative branch is the Assembly of the Union (ပြည်ထောင်စုလွှတ်တော်) Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which is a bicameral legislature consisting of the 440-seat House of Representatives and the 224-seat House of Nationalities. Military (Tatmadaw) member delegates are reserved a maximum of 56 of 224 seats in the National Assembly and 110 seats of 440 in the People's Assembly. This is similar to former Indonesian and Thai constitutions.
The revisions in state structure, including the creation of self-administering areas were not implemented until August 2010.
At the time of its release, foreign media often incorrectly alleged that the constitution barred Aung San Suu Kyi from holding public office because of her marriage to a British citizen; in fact, she would only be barred from the office of President, under the disqualification of those who have a spouse or children who are foreign citizens. There is no similar disqualification for any other public office.
2008 constitutional referendum
In drafting the constitution, the commission adhered strictly to the six objectives, including giving the Tatmadaw (the military) the leading political role in the future state.
The National League for Democracy, which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was not allowed to participate in the creation of the constitution, and urged citizens to reject the constitution which it labelled as a "sham." The referendum itself passed the 2008 Constitution, but was generally regarded as fraudulent by the opposition party and those outside of Burma.
The SPDC reported a heavy turnout on both dates, with few voting irregularities. Opposition groups say the turnout was comparatively light, with many reported cases of voting irregularities, such as premarked ballots, voter intimidation, and other techniques to influence the outcome of the referendum.
In spite of its earlier opposition to the 2008 constitution, the NLD participated in the 2012 by-election for 46 seats and won a landslide victory, with Aung San Suu Kyi becoming a member of parliament, alongside 42 others from her party.
The ruling party and opposition parties have acknowledged that amendments are needed. The 2008 constitution reserves 25% of seats in parliament for members of the military, with the most powerful posts given to active-duty or retired generals.
Amendments were proposed to be voted on in a constitutional referendum in 2015, but after most of the proposed amendments were discarded, the referendum was postponed.
Content of Constitution
The Myanmar Constitution has 15 chapters. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 concern the separation of powers between the legislature, judiciary, and executive. Due to over 50 years of military rule, the Constitution of Myanmar is dominated by the military, with 25% of the seats in both houses of the Assembly of the Union (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) reserved for military representatives. Proposed changes to the constitution must be approved by at least 75% of both houses of the Assembly of the Union before going to a referendum. When the referendum is held, the changes must be approved by at least 50% of the registered voters, rather than 50% of those voting. A 194-page booklet containing the text in Burmese and English is available to download.
Type of content
- Basic Principles of the Union
- State Structure
- Head of State
- Defence Services
- Citizen, Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizens
- Political Parties
- Provisions on State of Emergency
- Amendment of the Constitution
- State Flag, State Seal, National Anthem and the Capital
- Transitory Provisions
- General Provisions
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- No Constitutional Amendments Before Election: Shwe Mann The Irrawaddy, 18 November 2014
- "Booklet of 194 pages (in Burmese & English Language) "
- "1947 Constitution of Burma"
- "1974 Constitution of Burma"
- "Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008)" Official English version
- Aung Htoo A Brief Analysis on the Constitution of Burma (2008) // FIDH/BLC Seminar Advancing Human Rights and ending impunity in Burma: which external leverages? Paris: Imprimerie de la FIDH, 2010 — pp. 53–58