The Constitutional Crisis
end of the Second World War, the leaders of the various ethnic nationalities
met in 1946 in Panglong to deliberate the possibility
of a future together after the proposed withdrawal of British protection.
General Aung San, the Burman
leader of the independence struggle in Ministerial Burma participated in the 2nd
Panglong Conference in February 1947. He proposed
that the separate ethnic homelands in the Frontier Areas be joined to
Ministerial Burma as equal partners in a ‘Union of Burma’ to hasten the process
of achieving independence from Britain.
The Panglong Agreement, which recognized the equality,
voluntary participation, and self-determination, of the constituent states,
formed the basis for the Republic of the Union of Burma.
General Aung San was assassinated in July 1947, the
Union Constitution was rushed through to completion without reflecting the
spirit of Panglong. The ethnic homelands were
recognized as constituent states but all power was concentrated in the central
government. In spite of these set backs, the ethnic nationalities leaders
continued to support the government of U Nu who had
succeeded Aung San, even when the Communist Party of
Burma started their armed revolution; when the war veterans of the People’s
Volunteer Organization went underground; and when Burman
units of the Burma Army mutinied. In fact, army units made up of ethnic
nationalities helped restore order and ensured the survival of the government
of U Nu.
the right of the Shan and Karenni people to
disassociate from the Union after 10 years, guaranteed in the 1947 Union Constitution, was
denied them. As a precaution, U Nu invited the
Commander-in-Chief, General Ne Win, to form a
‘Caretaker’ government to restore law and order for a period of 2 years as
young people took to the jungles to claim their rights.
the ethnic nationalities leaders tried to return to the spirit of Panglong by proposing to amend the 1947 Constitution as a
means of preventing the nation from disintegrating.
General Ne Win launched a coup d’etat
in 1962 ‘to save the nation from disintegration’ and suspended the 1947
Constitution. From the ethnic nationalities’ point of view, this act abolished
the legal instrument that bound their homelands to the Union. As such, they consider themselves to be
independent entities held by force in subjugation by an invading army.
General Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Programme Party
adopted a new constitution but this had no status in law as far as the ethnic
nationalities were concerned. In any case, the 1974 Constitution was suspended
by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in 1988.
SLORC and now the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) convened a new
National Convention to draft a constitution that will guarantee a leading
political role for the military in a future Burma.
After nearly 9 years, the process is still stalled.
ENSCC, therefore, considers that it is of the utmost importance for the
constitutional crisis in Burma to
be resolved if the nation is to be rebuilt.