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The Constitution, the Military and the State in Myanmar

Calls for constitutional reform persist in many countries around the global. Constitutional design and participation in constitution-making presents a host of challenges in divided societies. Demands for constitutional change are often perceived as an unwanted critique of the current political regime and for this reason are highly controversial. My presentation will consider the origins of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution, the role of the military in its drafting and implementation, and the way this Constitution limits the state. In doing so, I will examine the principles and ideas that animate the Constitution and affect what Aung San Suu Kyi’s government can do. This is critically important given the ongoing crisis in northern Rakhine State. Contrary to analysis that priorities personalities and power plays, I suggest that Myanmar also needs to be understood through the lens of the Constitution and the structures and rules it embodies. I argue that the 2008 Constitution is an important part of the ‘military-state’ in Myanmar. This military-state has three components as evident from the text and from constitutional practice: the leading role of the military in national politics; the ideology of the three meta principles of military constitutional governance; and the concept of cooperative centralism that uses ‘disciplined’ democracy to control and contain the Union. This presentation is based on my forthcoming book, The Constitution of Myanmar (Hart, 2019). I demonstrate the new lines of inquiry that Myanmar can open up in the field of comparative constitutional law and politics, and the way that constitutional law in Myanmar calls us to pay greater attention to constitutional legacies

Time: 12:15-1:30pm
Venue: University of Chicago Law School, Room V, 1111 East 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637

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