Collective Right Identified as Important Aspect of Constitutional Reform in Burma
Bloomington, Indiana: A two-week long conference on constitutional reform held from 2-12 August concluded today at Indiana University. About 20 international academicians and leaders of democratic movements from Burma, Liberia,
and Azerbaijan attended the conference.
Dr. Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong and U Thein Oo, co-chairs of the Federal Constitution Drafting Committee of the Union of Burma, which is a shadow constitutional writing process undertaken by dissidents, delivered speeches focusing on the process of constitutional reform, the importance of devising a constitutional framework that recognizes both individual and collective rights of diverse Burmese citizens, and the obstacles involved in realizing the goals of federalism in Burma.
In his panel presentation, Dr. Sakhong who also is the general secretary of the United Nationalities League for Democracy, referred to the recent incident in which Burmese soldiers illegally demolished a Christian cross in Matupi town of southern Chin State as one typical example of continued denial of collective rights in Burma.
Emphasizing that a sound and working federal constitution is the only way to ensure harmony and sustainable democracy, Dr. Sakhong said that chauvinistic agendas espoused by successive Burmese governments have been the chief impediments for building a successful federal democratic system in Burma. He said respect for religious and cultural rights including the right to freely promote one’s language and custom are essential in ensuring collective rights.
U Thien Oo, another leading participant from Burma at the conference also stressed the necessity of drafting a better and more effective federal constitution for Burmese people while preparing for future democratic reform in Burma.
This conference was hosted by the Center for Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Study at Indiana University School of Law—Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
By Elaisa Vahnie
12 August 2005