Constitution of Burma

Constitution of Burma
Burma (Myanmar)

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The Constitution of Burma [mjəmà nàiŋàɴ pʰwɛ̰zíbòuɴ ʔətɕèɡàɴ ʔṵbədè]) has changed several times since the country became independent from the United Kingdom. Burma's third and current constitution[1] was published in September 2008[2] after a referendum.



1947 Constitution

The 1947 constitution drafted by Chan Htoon and was used from the country's independence in 1948 to 1962, when the constitution was suspended by the Socialist 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 (Lumyozu Hluttaw) and the Chamber of Deputies (Pyithu Hluttaw), whose seat numbers were determined by the population size of respective constituencies.[3][4]

1974 Constitution

Approved in a 1973 referendum, the 1974 constitution was the second constitution to be written. It created a unicameral legislature called the Pyithu Hluttaw (the People's Assembly), represented by members of the Burma Socialist Programme Party.[5] Each term was 4 years.[4] Ne Win became the president at this time.


Upon taking power in September 1988, the military based State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) suspended the 1974 constitution.[6][7] The SLORC called a constitutional convention in 1993, but it was suspended in 1996 when the National League for Democracy boycotted it, calling it undemocratic.[7] The constitutional convention was again called in 2004, but without the National League for Democracy.[7] Burma remained without a constitution until 2008.[7]

2008 Constitution

Full text of the 2008 Constitution

On 9 April 2008, the military government of 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 Union Assembly (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw or, which is a bicameral legislature consisting of the 440-seat People's Assembly and the 224-seat National Assembly. 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.[8] 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.[9]

Foreign media often incorrectly allege that the constitution bars Aung San Suu Kyi from holding public office because of her marriage to a British citizen;[8] 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

On 10 May 2008[10] 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.[11]

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.[12][13]

The National League for Democracy which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate in the creation of the constitution,[14] and it urged citizens to reject[15] the constitution which it labeled as a "sham." The referendum itself passed the 2008 Constitution,[16] but was generally regarded as fraudulent by the opposition party and those outside of Burma.[17]

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.[18]


  1. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008)" full text in English from Burma Library, last accessed 5 October 2010
  2. ^ "National and State constitutions, draft constitutions, amendments and announcements (texts): Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008) - English"
  3. ^ The Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947), Chapter VI: Parliament
  4. ^ a b "TIMELINE - Myanmar's slow road to a new constitution". Reuters. 2008-02-09. 
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (1974), Chapter IV: Pyithu Hluttaw
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b c d Mydans, Seth (4 September 2007) "Myanmar Constitution Guidelines Ensure Military Power" The New York Times, last accessed 5 October 2010
  8. ^ a b "New Burma constitution published". BBC News. 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  9. ^ Xinhua Staff(21 August 2010) "Myanmar re-designates areas under new constitution ahead of election" People's Daily Online, last accessed 5 October 2010
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ "New Myanmar constitution gives military leading role". Reuters. 2008-02-19. 
  12. ^ "Burma referendum goes ahead". BBC News. 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  13. ^ "Burmese voice anger on poll day". BBC News. 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  14. ^ Dissidents line up to fight Myanmar constitution
  15. ^ JURIST - Paper Chase: Upcoming Myanmar constitutional referendum 'sham': HRW
  16. ^ "" Myanmar Announcement No. 7/2008, from Burma Library
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ 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

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