The 6th Seminar on the State Constitutions gets kicked off
: Scheduled for five days from the 16th to 20th July, 2007, the 6th Seminar on State Constitutions, attended by representatives from the seven major ethnic nationalities groups of Burma, the Arakan, the Chin, the Kachin, the Karen, the Karenni, the Mon, and the Shan, gets kicked off at the Thai-burma border area.
This State Constitution Seminar was initially born out of the joint effort made by the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD-LA) under the title of Supporting Committee for State Constitution (SCSC) in 2001. Now, following the emergence of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (www.encburma. org), a council trying to unite the whole ethnic groups of Burma under one umbrella, this ongoing state Constitution Seminar is organized under the Constitutional Affairs Committee (CAC), one of the major committees of the Ethnic Nationalities Council.
Knowing that restoring democracy is only the first step towards achieving the rights of self-determination, the national reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence among diverse ethnic groups in the Union of Burma, the non-Burman ethnic leaders are taking initiatives, preparing their own state constitution in anticipation of the future democratic Union of Burma insistently since the year 2001.
“We need to be united in order for us to attain our common political goals such as the rights of equality, our birth rights of the national self-determination, and the establishment of a federal Union . Without unity and close cooperation among us, we will not attain our goals”, strongly urges, Pado Saw Ba Thin Sein, Chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Council, in his opening remarks. “We need to accept the responsibility to work together and accept the need to have unity, national reconciliation, and federal Union in Burma ”, he added.
Coincidentally, this 6th seminar on State Constitutions comes politically at a historic time when the State Peace and Development Council of Burma (SPDC) is hell bent on aiming to wrap up their over-decade long national convention slated to begin on the 18th of July, 2007, a convention of which many Burma’s affair analysts called it as “Sham National Convention” and believe that the military junta this time a round will legalize its military rule in the Burma’s constitution.
On the question of whether or not the SPDC’s ongoing national convention will bring about a genuine democracy and national reconciliation in Burma, the ENC clearly states its position saying,“ The Ethnic Nationalities Council believes that the SDPC’s seven-point ‘road map’ and its National Convention will not lead to democratization and the establishment of a federal union. The current Convention as it stands will only serve to legitimize the military dictatorship.”
With this national convention being at the stage of the final round as said by the regime, many predict that the military junta would force its hand-picked peoples attending national Convention to ratify their constitution, which is the first of their seven steps on a roadmap to democracy and will call a general election.
Looking at the initiatives consistently taken to hold a series of seminar on constitutions, one can dub that the ethnic leaders of Burma are reconvening the second Taungyi conference, the first of which was convened in Taungyi, Shan State in 1961under the leadership of Prince Sao Shwethike, the first democratically elected President of the Union of Burma, whereby the ethnic leaders representing their respective national states were attempting to address the internal political conflict of Burma through a peaceful mean, focusing on the constitutional reforms in accordance with the Panglong Agreement signed in 1947.
In the end of his remarks during the Taungyi Conference in 1961, Captain Mang Tung Nung, a Chin leader attending the conference said, “May there be the Unity among our ethnic groups and may the Union of Burma be stable”, which reflected his commitment to the integration of the Union of Burma.
Like in the past, in the ongoing effort to uproot the military dictatorship from power and achieve the democratic reform based on a genuine federal system in Burma, despite the long years of their marginalization and alienation politically from the mainstream political decision making process, the non-Burma ethnic groups are still opting for rebuilding a Union together with the Burman ethnic group under federalism.
While working for the restoration of democracy in a military ruled Burma, with a commitment to claming and defending the rights of ethnic nationalities, political and national, the Ethnic Nationalities Council has been internationally advocating for the emergence of tripartite dialogue involving the ethnic groups as one of the three main dialogue partners to break decades long Burma’s political deadlock in line with a series of resolutions passed and strongly recommended by the United Nations since 1994.
By Salai Za Ceu Lian
16th July, 2007