Constitution of Myanmar

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Constitution of Myanmar
Constitution of Myanmar of 2008.pdf
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
State seal of Myanmar.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Myanmar

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 2008 Constitution, the country's third and current constitution,[1] was published in September 2008[2] after a referendum.

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.[3][4] The military also appoints one of the country's two vice presidents.[5] Hence, the country's civilian leaders have little influence over the security establishment.[3][4]

History[edit]

1947 Constitution[edit]

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.[6][7] The 1947 constitution was largely based on the 1946 Yugoslav Constitution, and several Burmese officials visited Yugoslavia earlier that year.[8]

1974 Constitution[edit]

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.[9] Each term was 4 years.[7] Ne Win became the president at this time.

1988-2008[edit]

Upon taking power in September 1988, the military based State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) suspended the 1974 constitution.[10][11] 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.[11] The constitutional convention was again called in 2004, but without the NLD.[11] Myanmar remained without a constitution until 2008.[11]

2008 Constitution[edit]

Full text of the 2008 Constitution

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.[12] This is similar to former Indonesian and Thai constitutions.[citation needed]

The revisions in state structure, including the creation of self-administering areas were not implemented until August 2010.[13]

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;[12] 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[edit]

On 10 May 2008[14] a referendum was held to outline the political framework of the country. According to Chief Justice Aung Toe, who is chairman of the drafting commission,

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.[15]

The government did not allow Cyclone Nargis to delay the referendum which took place as scheduled except in the delta areas affected by the cyclone.[16][17]

The National League for Democracy, which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was not allowed to participate in the creation of the constitution,[18] and urged citizens to reject[19] the constitution which it labelled as a "sham." The referendum itself passed the 2008 Constitution,[20] but was generally regarded as fraudulent by the opposition party and those outside of Burma.[21]

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.[22]

2012 by-elections[edit]

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.

Proposed amendments[edit]

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[edit]

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.[23] A 194-page booklet containing the text in Burmese and English is available to download.

Type of content[edit]

  • Preamble
  1. Basic Principles of the Union
  2. State Structure
  3. Head of State
  4. Legislature
  5. Executive
  6. Judiciary
  7. Defence Services
  8. Citizen, Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizens
  9. Election
  10. Political Parties
  11. Provisions on State of Emergency
  12. Amendment of the Constitution
  13. State Flag, State Seal, National Anthem and the Capital
  14. Transitory Provisions
  15. General Provisions

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008)" full text in English from Burma Library, last accessed 5 October 2010
  2. ^ "Online Burma Library > Main Library > Law and Constitution > Constitutional and parliamentary processes > National constitutions, draft constitutions, amendments and announcements (texts)". Burmalibrary.org. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  3. ^ a b "Why is army still in Myanmar parliament?". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Phil Robertson. "Can Aung San Suu Kyi control Myanmar's military?". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  5. ^ "Managing the defence and security council". Mmtimes.com. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  6. ^ The Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947), Chapter VI: Parliament
  7. ^ a b "TIMELINE - Myanmar's slow road to a new constitution". Reuters. 9 February 2008. 
  8. ^ DASMIP, PA, 1947, f-124, 425154, Zabeleska o razgovoru druga Price sa predstavnikom burmanske vlade Maung Ohn, dana 5 decembra 1947 godine [Minutes of conversation between comrade Prica and the representative of the Burmese Government Maung Ohn, December 5th 1947]. F. S. V. Donnison, Burma (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1970), p. 141.
  9. ^ The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (1974), Chapter IV: Pyithu Hluttaw
  10. ^ Liddell, Zunetta (1997) "No Room to Move: Legal Constraints on Civil Society in Burma" (conference paper) 'Strengthening Civil Society in Burma. Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs', Transnational Institute and the Burma Centrum Nederland, Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, from Burma Library, last accessed 5 October 2010
  11. ^ a b c d Mydans, Seth (4 September 2007) "Myanmar Constitution Guidelines Ensure Military Power" The New York Times, last accessed 5 October 2010
  12. ^ a b "New Burma constitution published". BBC News. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  13. ^ Xinhua Staff(21 August 2010) "Myanmar re-designates areas under new constitution ahead of election" People's Daily Online, last accessed 5 October 2010
  14. ^ Ossenova, Katerina (9 April 2008) "Paper Chase Newsburst: Myanmar constitution referendum set for May 10" Jurist: Legal News and Research, last accessed 5 October 2010
  15. ^ "New Myanmar constitution gives military leading role". Reuters. 19 February 2008. 
  16. ^ "Burma referendum goes ahead". BBC News. 10 May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  17. ^ "Burmese voice anger on poll day". BBC News. 10 May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  18. ^ "Dissidents line up to fight Myanmar constitution". Reuters.com. 11 February 2008. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  19. ^ "JURIST - Paper Chase: Upcoming Myanmar constitutional referendum 'sham': HRW". Jurist.law.pitt.edu. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  20. ^ "Myanmar Announcement No. 7/2008" (PDF). Burmalibrary.org. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  21. ^ Martin, Michael F. (29 April 2010) ["Burma’s 2010 Elections: Implications of the New Constitution and Election Laws"] United States Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, last accessed 5 October 2010
  22. ^ Martin, Michael F. (29 April 2010) ["Burma’s 2010 Elections: Implications of the New Constitution and Election Laws"] United States Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, page 4, citing Watson, Roland (26 March 2010) "Intelligence from Burma Police Defector" Dictator Watch
  23. ^ No Constitutional Amendments Before Election: Shwe Mann The Irrawaddy, 18 November 2014

External links[edit]