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FEDERALISM IN BURMA/MYANMAR  

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Htun, Thaung. "Federalism: The Best Option for National Reconciliation and Peace in Burma," Burma Lawyers’ Council 4(1999).

Summary: Federalism has made democracy more viable by providing a way for ethnic, religious, racial and linguistic communities to benefit from political and economic union while retaining considerable autonomy, self-government and communal identity.1 Our history has proven that a unitary or quasi-federal system is inefficient in bringing about peace and prosperity. Genuine federalism is the best option to bring about national reconciliation and pave the way for rebuilding Burma as a modern nation.

Saffin, Janelle. "Federalism, Burma and How the International Community Can Help," Burma Lawyers’ Council 11 (2002).

Summary: Burma has never progressed past the polarised and prevailing view of federalism, yet for so long an aspiration of many of Burma's leaders, notably the National Democratic Front (NDF) since its formation in 1976, and still today. The United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD) an umbrella political organisation of non-Burman nationalities that formed in 1989 likewise embraces federalism as a path to political, therefore constitutional settlement, that will bring peace and prosperity. International Community can help via systematic study and consideration of the world's federations, in pursuit of an understanding of what federalism can achieve when presented with a range of entrenched political and/ or ethnic problems. The international community thus provides and becomes the backdrop, and the actor/ participants can research, inform, educate, and consider whether and in what ways federalism can provide some solutions to the crisis of governance in which they flounder. 
Sakhong, Lian H. "A Struggle for Democracy, Equality and Federalism in Burma: An Ethnic Perspective," Ethnic Nationalities Council (2008).
Summary: This paper argues that federalism is the only viable solution to Burma’s current political crisis, including five long decades of civil war. Federalism, therefore, is essential to the ultimate success of the democracy movement, to guarantee political equality for all nationalities, the right of self-determination for all member states of the Union, and democratic rights for all citizens of the Union.

Silverstein, Josef. "Federalism as a Solution to the Ethnic Problem in Burma, in Legal Issues on Burma Journal," Burma Lawyer’s Council 11 (2002).

Summary: From January 4, 1948, the day the Union of Burma came into existence as an independent nation, the people and their leaders have been divided over how to achieve national unity and structure their state. Until 1988, it was federal in name and theory, but unitary in practice. After five decades of political discussion, peaceful movements for secession or autonomy and warfare, the majority Burmans and most of the ethnic minorities remain disunited. From time to time efforts have been made by the Government of Burma and the minorities, either alone or in groups, to end revolt and disunity, but none have succeeded. Today, the basic problem is the same as the one the nation's founding fathers faced fifty years ago: how to construct a political system wherein diverse peoples feel free and equal, able to govern themselves in their own areas, protect and preserve their languages, cultures and traditions, while at the same time give their political loyalty to the nationstate. 

Win, Khin Maung Win, "Federalism and Burma," Burma Lawyer’s Council 9 (2001).

Summary: The ethnic insurgency movements emerged as a result of the government’s failure to deal with the demand for federalism peacefully. The non-Burman movement for federalism and political equality (the ‘Federal Movement’) has consistently tried to resolve the issue peacefully. The non-Burman ethnic groups even participated in the 1990 elections, with federalism as their main motive. In the elections, the UNLD (United Nationalities’ League for Democracy, the alliance of ethnic parties in Burma) occupied the second largest number of seats after the NLD (National League for Democracy). However, federalism does not mean anything to the non-Burman groups unless the right to self-determination, including the right to secession, is part of it.

Yawnghwe, Chao-Tzang. "Federalism: Putting Burma Back Together Again," Burma Lawyer’s Council 11 (2002).

Summary: This paper deals with the absence or the non-existence of a functional relation between the state in Burma and broader society which is also made up of non-Burman 1 ethnic segments that inhabit the historical-territorial units comprising the Union of Burma. 2 Introduction: Putting the Country Back Together Again The paper looks into the problems related to the task, as yet to be accomplished, of "putting the country back together again", in contrast to the claim of the military and its state is "keeping the country together". It is here argued that although the military has, in a manner of speaking, "kept the country together", it has also distorted the relation between the state in Burma and broader society by monopolizing power and excluding societal elements and forces from the sphere of the state and from the political arena. The military's centralist, unitary impulse, informed by it ethnocentric (Burmanization) national unity formula, has contributed to a dysfunctional state-society relation, that has in turn brought about the present crisis of decay and general breakdown, making Burma a failed state. 

Yawnghwe, Chao-Tzang. "Burma and National Reconciliation: Ethnic Conflict and State-Society Dysfunction in Legal Issues on Burma Journal," Burma Lawyer Council 10 (2001).

Summary: It is maintained that Burma’s ‘ethnic conflict’ is not per se ethnic, nor that of the kind faced by indigenous peoples of, for example, North America, but a conflict rooted in politics. Following the collapse of Burma’s General Ne Win’s military-socialist regime in 1988, the issue of ethnic conflict has attracted the attention from both observers and protagonists. This attention became heightened following the unraveling of the socialist bloc and the emergence of ethnic wars in those hitherto (presumed) stable socialist nation-states.

Yawnghwe, Chao-Tzang. "The Pyidaungzu, Federalism  and Burman Elites: A Brief Analysis, in Legal Issues on Burma Journal," Burma Lawyers’ Council 3 (1999).

Summary: Drafting a constitution in Burma. "Federalism is not quite understood in Burma. In fact, it would not be wrong to say it is grossly misunderstood by -- among many others -- the Burman population segment, or at least by its armed elites (or elites in uniform). To armed Burman elites, Federalism is synonomous with the destruction or the disintegration of the Union. The Burman-dominated military led by General Ne Win introduced and entrenched this idea when they usurped power in 1962.

 

Reports

Seminar on Democracy, Constitution and National Reconciliation. Chiang Mai: Danish Burma Committee, 2004.

Purpose: 

Content: This report includes information on reconciliation, democratization, federalism, and the role of governments. It includes the outcomes of the work conducted by the members of State Constitution Drafting Committees, as well as discussions on strategic options for democratic changes in Burma.

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Pyidaungsu Institute

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