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A committee charged by the junta with drafting a new Constitution reportedly intends to include an article banning Myanmar citizens married to foreigner.
PTI | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2006 08:39 PM IST

Constitutional Background

Myanmar, formerly "Burma", is ruled by a military junta. The junta is responsible for the 1988 massacre suppressing the democracy movement. The national symbol of democratic resistance, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained by military. The NLD (National League for Democracy) clearly won the 1990 elections, but the military refused handing over the power. A committee charged by the junta with drafting a new Constitution reportedly intends to include an article banning Myanmar citizens married to foreigners from political activity -- that would exclude Mrs Suu Kyi who is married to a British national. The NLD refused to participate in the Constitutional Convention.

The 1947 Constitution
The 1947 Constitution laid out a blueprint for how Burma’s many peoples were to live together. Overall, it emphasised the need to accommodate ethnic differences, but there were some ambiguities.

The new state was partly federal, although the term 'federalism' is not mentioned in the Constitution, and the new system mixed federal and unitary elements. The new system of government was parliamentarian. Executive power was vested in a president, who was indirectly elected by the Parliament, but his powers were limited.

Legislative power belonged to a Parliament called the Pyitthu Hluttaw, divided into a lower chamber of deputies and an upper chamber of nationalities.

In the chamber of deputies, the representatives were elected by universal suffrage, and their number was about twice the size of the upper chamber. The chamber of deputies would elect the government, which was only answerable to this chamber.

The Constitution did not provide any details for the administration of the states. A head of state, a state council and a cabinet of state ministers were created for each state, but there was no separate election for positions concerning the states. Representatives elected to the Pyitthu Hluttaw from each state would make up the state council, while the Prime Minister of the Union would appoint the head of state among them. The head of a member state was also minister in the Union government.

The Constitution contained a bill of rights that secured rule of law as well as basic political and civic rights. It did not actively promote cultural rights for ethnic minorities, but protected religious and linguistic minorities from discrimination in access to state education. Freedom of religion was also guaranteed.

Military rule (1974-1988)
The second Constitution of independent Burma differed markedly from its predecessor. The highest level of government was the Pyithu Hluttaw or People’s Assembly, a single chamber legislature.

Under the new laws, U Ne Win, as he was then called, was selected as President of the country and head of the BSPP. During this period of military rule the government faced popular unrest with workers staging violent strikes in 1974 and 1975.

Students also protested throughout this period with the most serious protest in 1974. It resulted from a struggle between the students and the government over the proper burial of the remains of U Thant, the third Secretary General of the United Nations.

On August 12, 1988, General Sein Lwin resigned and was replaced by a civilian lawyer Dr. Maung Maung. During this period the jails were opened and thousands of criminals released causing fear as crime rose. Rumours were also spread by government agents that the water supply was poisoned and that other heinous acts were being committed.

Peaceful student-led demonstrations were snuffed out on September 18, 1988, as the military staged a bloody coup and established a new dictatorship under martial law, called the 'State Law and Order Restoration Council' (SLORC).

It brutally put down the popular movement resulting in thousands of deaths and arrests. Many students left the cities and their homes and fled to border areas. The SLORC suspended the 1974 Constitution.




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