Roadmap to autocracy


"[The Inter-Parliamentary Union] … Expresses serious doubts about the recently presented "road map", step one of which suggests that the National Convention be reconvened; reaffirms its conviction that the National Convention is designed to prolong and legitimise military rule against the will of the people, as expressed in the 1990 elections, and thus stands in direct opposition to the principle enshrined the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the ‘will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’"  (
Inter-Parliamentary Union, October 2003)


* The “roadmap” launched by General Khin Nyunt on 30 August 2003, and which some international actors appear to be taking seriously as a route to democracy in Burma represents, in reality, the hardest political position taken so far by the Burmese junta towards the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party which won the May 1990 elections by a landslide.


*The “roadmap” as set out by Gen. Khin Nyunt accords absolutely no place to the NLD. 

From the unconditional promise by the military in 1988 that power would be transferred to the election victors, the junta introduced one condition after another, especially after the election results were in. With the notorious “Declaration 1/90” of 27 July 1990 (also delivered by Gen. Khin Nyunt), the junta definitively moved the goalposts from transfer of power to constitution-drafting, claiming that the elections had been for a body to draft a new constitution rather than to form a new government. Declaration 1/90 also imposed conditions on the constitution drafting by playing the ethnic card against the elected representatives, stating that “…in Myanmar Naing-Ngan there are many national races who have awakened politically and it is obvious that it is especially necessary to draw up a firm constitution after soliciting their wishes and views.”


It emerged that these wishes and views would be solicited via a “National Convention” set up and completely controlled by the military, whose main aim was to ensure that the constitution guaranteed the military’s dominance in any future “democratic” state – “Participation of the Tatmadaw [the Burmese military] in the leading role of national politics of the State in (the) future”. This and other “objectives” were unilaterally decreed by the military several months before the National Convention began in January 1993. The Convention was to draft the “basic principles” of a new constitution. However, when these basic principles (the “104 Principles”, a blueprint for a unitary, military-dominated state) were proclaimed in September 1993, the National Convention did not stop so that the elected representatives could duly proceed with the task of constitution drafting which Declaration 1/90 had allotted them, but itself began writing,  under 15 chapter headings, a set of “Detailed Basic Principles”– so detailed as to form, in effect, the chapters of a draft constitution, leaving no role whatsoever for any elected constituent assembly. The “roadmap” is based on these same objectives, principles and procedures.


The National Convention was adjourned in 1996, having completed eight chapters of the Detailed Basic Principles -- on the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive, the State, State Structure, Head of State and Self-Administered Areas, leaving eight chapters still to write.


The “roadmap” envisages a resumed National Convention based on the 104 Principles and the Detailed Basic Principles (which incorporate the six “objectives”, including the “Participation of the Tatmadaw in the leading role of national politics of the State in (the) future”) and the task is presumably to draft the remaining chapters of the Detailed Basic Principles. There is no mention in the “roadmap” of any role for the elected representatives. According to the “roadmap”, after the constitution is completed, it will be put to a referendum and new elections held. There is no reference whatsoever to the 1990 elections.


* The “roadmap” therefore conflicts with the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions adopted by consensus for more than a decade which affirm, in various formulations, that "the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government and that the will of the people of Myanmar was clearly expressed in the elections held in 1990" (UNGA, December 2003). It is difficult to understand how international actors can justify support for a process so clearly in conflict with these resolutions which embody the international consensus.


Documents supporting these points may be found in the Online Burma/Myanmar Library,  and in particular at