Burma/Myanmar: How to read the generals' "roadmap"

- a brief guide with links to the literature

by David Arnott



The seven-step “roadmap” to disciplined democracy announced by Gen. Khin Nyunt on
30 August 2003

(1) - Reconvening of the National Convention that has been adjourned since 1996.

(2) - After the successful holding of the National Convention, step by step implementation of the process necessary for the emergence of a genuine and disciplined democratic system.

(3) - Drafting of a new constitution in accordance with basic principles and detailed basic principles laid down by the National Convention.

(4) - Adoption of the constitution through national referendum.

(5) - Holding of free and fair elections for Pyithu Hluttaws (Legislative bodies) according to the new constitution.

(6) - Convening of Hluttaws attended by Hluttaw members in accordance with the new constitution.

(7) - Building a modern, developed and democratic nation by the state leaders elected by the Hluttaw; and the government and other central organs formed by the Hluttaw.


Introduction

This guide is not so much an analysis – political, legal or other -- of the “roadmap” as an introduction to some of the elements, in particular the National Convention process[1], which the “roadmap” is based on.  For analyses, see Roadmaps/National Convention in the Online Burma/Myanmar Library. This guide has a limited scope and makes three main points:

* The first and most crucial stage of the "roadmap" announced by Gen. Khin Nyunt on 30 August 2003 is the re-launch, scheduled for May 17 2004, of the 1993-1996 National Convention, and there is no indication by Burmese  military spokesmen that the resumed Convention will differ substantially in structure or procedure from its earlier form;

* The abundant commentaries and documentation on the 1993-1996 National Convention apply equally to this stage of the "roadmap";

* International, regional and national actors should take these into account when assessing the "roadmap" and developing their policies.


A frequent comment on the “roadmap” is that details are lacking. If, however, as seems likely, the reconvened National Convention follows its 1993-1996 pattern, we actually know a great deal about the first, crucial step of the “roadmap” by way of documentation and commentary.

The present guide sets the “roadmap” within this process, itself a stage in the events which followed the collapse of the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) in 1988, the coming of the SLORC[2], the 1990 elections and their aftermath. The guide:

1) Provides a chronology and documentation of the shifting positions of the Burmese military from 1988 onwards with regard to handing over power to the party which won the elections -- from the 1988 promise of unconditional transfer of power, to the NLD’s apparent exclusion in August 2003 from any authority or responsibility at all deriving from the electoral mandate of 1990;

2) Provides introductions and hyperlinks to a substantial collection of commentaries and documentation on the National Convention process, which the “roadmap” is intended to complete (something not denied by the SPDC[3]);

3) Recommends that international, regional and national actors recognise the “roadmap” as an integral part of the National Convention process and that they study the purpose, principles and procedure of the whole process when developing their policies.

 

1. Chronology and documentation

As documented in the Chronology of statements by Burmese military spokesmen on multi-party elections, constitution-drafting, the National Convention, transfer of power etc..[4] the Burmese military has adopted a number of positions since 1988 regarding the powers to be assumed by the party which won the multiparty election. The positions shifted from:

* an unconditional undertaking in 1988 to transfer power to the party which won the multiparty elections; to

* the 1989 to mid-1990 statements that the elected representatives could and then should and then (after the election victory of the NLD) must first draft a new constitution;

* the June 1989 Information Committee statement, strengthened and developed after 27 May 1990, that the new constitution must be approved by the whole nation;

* the 17 November 1989 SLORC Information Committee reaffirmation of the 1988 undertaking by the Tatmadaw to hand over power to the party which won the elections. No mention is made of a new constitution.

* SLORC Declaration No. 1/90 of July 27, 1990 (see footnote 9) delivered by Gen. Khin Nyunt on 27 July 1990, which stated that the elected representatives were “those who have the responsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State”, a constitution which would, however, have to be “firm” and “drawn up according to the desires and aspirations of the people” (the National Convention would subsequently be announced as the setting in which these desires and aspirations would be expressed). No mention is made of transfer of power to the party which won the elections.

* the decision, announced in late 1990[5] and proclaimed in 1992, to convene a National Convention which, as the supporting documents of this guide demonstrate, pre-defined the structure and content of the proposed new constitution;

* the key requirement (unilaterally decreed by the military in October 1992, three months before the first meeting of the National Convention) that one of the “objectives” forming the framework of “the basic principles for the drafting of the Constitution of the State at the National Convention” must be the “participation of the Tatmadaw [the Burmese military] in the leading role of national politics of the State in (the) future”;

* the September 1993 requirement that the constitution to be drafted by the elected representatives be based on these “basic principles” (“the 104 Principles”) which were, in effect, drafted by the military via its National Convention;

* the 1994-1996 drafting of “Detailed Basic Principles” by the National Convention – “principles” so detailed as to leave no discretion for further drafting and to amount, within the chapters completed,  to the text of a draft constitution;

* the “roadmap” of 30 August 2003, which envisages new elections following the drafting and approval by referendum of the new constitution. There is no mention of any role, constitution drafting or otherwise, for the representatives elected in 1990.

Thus, from firm promises in 1988 that the victors in the multiparty elections would be able to form a government, with no conditions attached, the generals gradually, from 1989 (in terms which were frequently contradictory, vague and ambiguous[6]) introduced more and more conditions on transfer of power until, after the elections, the victors' role was reduced to constitution drafting until this too, in the “roadmap”, dropped off the agenda.


The conditions, which emerge one by one, mainly after 27 May 1990, are that:

1) A new constitution must be drawn up before power can be transferred

2) This constitution must follow certain principles, to be drafted by a National Convention

3) The whole nation must approve the constitution

4) The government to which power is ultimately to be transferred must be strong (it is not stated who will decide what is “strong”).


The conditions may be considered under two headings:

A. Conditions for taking office

B. Conditions for drafting a new constitution

 

A. Conditions for taking office

A new constitution

The first reference I have found to a new constitution is in Gen. Ne Win’s speech to the Extraordinary Congress of the BSPP of 23 July 1988 in which, presenting the option of multiparty elections, he said that: “The Hluttaw elected thus, can write the Constitution and other necessary laws according to its own wishes…”. Then on 10 September 1988, at another Extraordinary Party Congress, President Maung Maung said, referring to future multiparty elections, that: “the forthcoming Hluttaw is to form a government. The Constitution is then to be amended as necessary”. On 5 May 1989, an order from Head of State Sr. Gen. Saw Maung states that “… It is expected that the multi-party election will be held in the near future and that the people's representatives will draw up a constitution of the State or a constitution of the Union of Burma”. None of these statements refers to a new constitution being a necessary condition for transferring power.


A strong government based on a new constitution as a condition for transfer of power

The language began slowly to change in mid-1989 with a somewhat ambiguous statement during a SLORC Information Committee press conference on 9 June 1989 referring to the need for a strong government, holding that such a government must be based on a constitution and hinting at a referendum. A military spokesman said “…We cannot transfer power as soon as the elections are held. The government would be formed according to a constitution. If the state power is hurriedly transferred, it would lead to a shaky and weak government. … Stability can be achieved only by systematically forming a government based on a constitution… The elected representatives can choose one of the constitutions [of 1947 or 1974] to form a government, and we will transfer power to the government formed by them. We are ready to transfer power to the government which emerges according to the constitution. If they do not like the two existing constitutions, they can draw up a new constitution. Neither the Defence Forces nor the SLORC will draw up a new constitution. The elected representatives are to draw up the constitution. If the people approve that constitution, we will transfer power as soon as possible to the government which emerged according to that constitution…”

Then, in an apparent reversion to the 1988 position, the SLORC Information Committee stated on  17 November 1989 that “…the Tatmadaw will do all it can to assist the Election Commission so that it can hold the free and fair multi-party democracy general election. All the service personnel including the Tatmadaw members can cast their votes on their own free will.  After the election is held according to law, State power will be duly handed over…”

From then I have found no clear statements on the subject until 12 April 1990, when Gen. Khin Nyunt stated: "The party that wins in the 27 May elections will have to form a government. Only if a firm Constitution can be drawn up and a government formed in accordance with it that [sic] will the government be a strong one. Only a strong government can lead the State for a long time. The Law and Order Restoration Council at different levels will continue to carry out the responsibilities of the State while the Constitution is being drafted. So we will continue to carry out the responsibilities even after the elections. We will continue to do so till a strong government has been formed.” (WPD 4/13/1990)[7]

This argument varied little in the following months and years: e.g. at a meeting of the Election Commission of 3 July 1990, Commission Member Saya Chai stated that: “A government can be formed only in accordance with the constitution. Only a government that comes into being in accordance with the constitution will be strong … transfer of power is easy and swift when the constitution is in force..." (WPD 7/4/1990) and on 15 November 1996, Ambassador U Pe Thein informed the UN General Assembly that “It is imperative for the Tatmadaw to continue to stay at the helm of the State until a new constitution is adopted…” (Source, NY Myanmar Mission). The 30 August 2003 “roadmap” also presents the completion of a new constitution as a pre-requisite for the next stages of the process.

What changed after the election was the body to which power would be transferred. As late as 12 April 1990, Gen Khin Nyunt, even while stressing the need for a new constitution before transfer of power. stated that "The party that wins in the 27 May elections will have to form a government.” All post-election statements, however, say, in various ways, that “power will be transferred only to the strong government that will be formed according to law." - Maj-Gen. Tin Oo, 20 June 1990 (WPD 6/21/1990). Here and subsequently, there is no reference to the party which won the 1990 elections, except in its diminished role as “those who have the responsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State” -- SLORC Declaration No. 1/90 of July 27, 1990 [8]  Declaration 1/90 is the key document which encapsulates and fixes SLORC’s post-election position – that the 1990 elections had simply been for a constituent assembly. From this point onwards, the military statements seek to shift the discourse from transfer of power to constitution drafting.

For an alternative reading of the degree to which the SLORC made its conditions for transfer of power public in advance of the 1990 elections, see Derek Tonkin's thoughtful study, The 1990 Elections in Myanmar (Burma): Broken Promises or a Failure of Communications? at http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/DT-Elections.html (html) and http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/DT-1990_Elections.doc (Word).

 
B. Conditions for drafting a new constitution

I have seen no substantial military statement from 1988 to the NLD election victory that anyone other than the elected representatives would have input into a new constitution. As late as May 1990, for instance, at the SLORC press conference of 4 May 1990, a SLORC spokesman said that “the SLORC will not draft a new constitution. The matter of drafting up a new constitution rests with the candidates who win in the forthcoming election." (WPD 5/5/1990).  And, several weeks later, at a press conference of 11 May 1990, the SLORC Information Committee “explained that the SLORC … believes that the drafting of a constitution should be discussed and decided by elected representatives in the assembly. The SLORC has nothing to say on how the constitution should be drafted”.

Following the NLD election victory, however, we see the onset of a barrage of statements on the need for a nation-wide consultation, e.g. “Constitution concerns not only a party or a group but also the people of entire nation and thus it must be the one accepted by the entire national people." (Maj-Gen. Tin Oo, 2 June 1990 (WPD 6/3/1990) or “A constitution, which meets the requirements of the country, is to be drawn up in accordance with the wishes of the entire people and to be approved by the majority”. (Election Commission, 3 July 1990 (WPD 7/4/1990). Declaration 1/90 denies that the NLD has any tasks apart from drafting a new constitution, but states explicitly that: “the representatives elected by the people are those who have the responsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State”. However, Declaration 1/90 sets out another condition, that in drafting a new constitution, the views of the whole nation must be taken into account. “Today, in Myanmar Naing-Ngan there are many national races who have awakened politically and it is obvious that it is especially necessary to draw up a firm constitution after soliciting their wishes and viewsa new firm constitution drawn up according to the desires and aspirations of the people.”

These views were to be solicited by means of an exercise announced by then Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw to the UN General Assembly on 10 October 1990. He said that: “The [SLORC] will hand over power in due course to a strong and stable government that is to be formed in accordance with a new constitution to be drafted. …[the new constitution] must be based on a national consensus and must be acceptable to a majority of the Myanmar people as well as to the majority of the national races living in the Union. To that end the Myanmar authorities...plan to meet with the elected representatives of the Pyithu Hluttaw (National Assembly). A broadly-based national convention will be convened to discuss all factors that should be taken into account in drafting the new constitution. Its drafting will be the responsibility of the elected representatives. The [SLORC] and the Defence Services will do their utmost to assist them in this task. Until such time as a firm constitution established government comes into existence, the [SLORC] will continue to fulfil its national responsibilities...." (WPD 10/11/1990)

Thus, under the rubric of “soliciting the wishes and views of the people” the NLD, having been denied Executive, Judicial and the rest of the Legislative powers saw even its diminished role as Constituent Assembly whittled away through the emerging National Convention,  a SLORC-controlled constitution-drafting exercise where the party found itself in a permanent minority.


The National Convention process

Phase 1 – 1993 to 1996

The National Convention process is the central mechanism whereby the NLD’sresponsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State” (Declaration 1/90) was progressively eroded until, in the “roadmap” announced on 30 August 2003, nothing was left.

The National Convention was formally proclaimed by  SLORC Declaration 11/92: Convening of the National Convention [9] ,  first convened on 9 January 1993, met in plenary and committee from 1993 to 1996, but has had no plenary sessions since then.  It opened with 702 members, 99 of them (less than 15% of the total) being elected representatives. The rest were hand-picked by SLORC, thus ensuring that the NLD and its allied parties would never be able to command a majority. The NLD, having protested against the Convention's authoritarian and restrictive procedures, was expelled from the Convention in 1995.

The key objectives of the National Convention were stated to be:

1) Non-disintegration of the Union;

2) Non-disintegration of National Solidarity;

3) Consolidation and perpetuation of Sovereignty;

4) Emergence of a genuine multi-party democratic system;

5) Development of eternal principles of justice, liberty and equality in the State; and

6) Participation of the Tatmadaw [the Burmese military] in the leading role of national politics of the State in (the) future.

These objectives – No. 6, for political dominance by the military, being the key one, and the one which produced the most resistance - were set out in SLORC Order 13/92: Formation of the Convening Commission for the National Convention [10] of 2 October 1992  (more than three months before the National Convention opened). The majority of the Convening Commission were military officers.  Subsequently, the military-controlled committees of the National Convention developed these objectives into The Principles laid down to serve as bases in prescribing State Fundamental Principles ("the 104 principles") [11] of 16 September 1993. From then until its adjournment in 1996, the National Convention committees developed the relevant Principles into "Detailed Basic Principles" for about half the decreed chapter headings:- on the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive, the State, State Structure, Head of State and Self-Administered Areas, which set out a detailed blueprint for a unitary, military-dominated state. See The National Convention (texts of Principles) [12] These principles are so detailed that they leave nothing for any subsequent constituent assembly to add. The “Detailed Basic Principles” are, in effect, chapters of a draft constitution, thus relieving the elected representatives of even the limited task of constitution drafting. 

 
Phase 2 – 2003 to ? (the "roadmap")

That these Principles are at the heart of the present "roadmap" is clear from Gen. Khin Nyunt's 30 August 2003 presentation of the 7-step process:

(1) - Reconvening of the National Convention that has been adjourned since 1996.

(2) - After the successful holding of the National Convention, step by step implementation of the process necessary for the emergence of a genuine and disciplined democratic system.

(3) - Drafting of a new constitution in accordance with basic principles and detailed basic principles laid down by the National Convention.

(4) - Adoption of the constitution through national referendum.

(5) - Holding of free and fair elections for Pyithu Hluttaws (Legislative bodies) according to the new constitution.

(6) - Convening of Hluttaws attended by Hluttaw members in accordance with the new constitution.

(7) - Building a modern, developed and democratic nation by the state leaders elected by the Hluttaw; and the government and other central organs formed by the Hluttaw.


For the full text of the General's speech, see Adjourned National Convention to be reconvened; New Constitution will be drafted [13] Points 1-3 refer specifically to the National Convention. Point 3 openly states that the new constitution will in accordance with the “basic principles and detailed basic principles laid down by the National Convention” which, if the texts adopted by the 1993-1996 National Convention are retained, ensure a military-dominated State, and points 4 and 5 were already mentioned in a 1994 briefing by Brig. Gen. David Abel to a group of Japanese businessmen: "Myanmar's new constitution will be adopted by a referendum, and general elections will be held in accordance with the new charter… "  Kyodo, Rangoon, 2 December 1994. See Myanmar's junta plans referendum on constitution [14]

In the months following the announcement of the “roadmap”, various SPDC Declarations and Orders were issued announcing the members of the National Convention committees. Though some members are civilians, these are largely government officials and others associated with the regime while the rest, including the Chairs and Vice-Chairs, are serving military officers. None of the members are elected representatives. See Changes in the assignment of duties in the National Convention Convening Commission [15] Assignment of members of National Convention Convening Commission [16]  Reformation of National Convention Convening Work Committee [17]   and

The State Peace and Development Council (Order No 13/2003): Reconstitution of the National Convention Convening Management Committee [18]

There has as yet been no announcement about any changes in the Discipline, Rules and Regulations – whose restrictive  and oppressive nature was a major cause of alienation among the delegates to the 1993-1996 sessions. See SLORC restrictions on delegates to the National Convention [19].  Nor has there been any indication that the Anti-Subversion Law will be repealed. See  SLORC Law No. 5/96 of June 7 1996: The Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Oppositions [20]

In fact, nothing that the SPDC has said so far about its "roadmap" suggests that it will deviate from the 1993-1996 National Convention route. The identity of the first step of the "roadmap" with the National Convention process was further demonstrated at a seminar in Rangoon on 26-28 January 2004 when U Khin Maung Win, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated, in his presentation, "Myanmar Roadmap to Democracy: The Way Forward", that  "the formulation of the State Constitution will be based on the following six objectives" – including the 6th one, which gives political supremacy to the military - and went on to present the objectives set out in SLORC Order 13/92, followed by the 15 National Convention chapter headings (the agenda of the National Convention) and the 104 "Principles laid down to serve as bases in prescribing State Fundamental Principles" - Myanmar Road to Democracy: The Way Forward [21] . Other descriptions of the “roadmap” which confirm its identity with the National Convention process may be found in Reports on mass rallies in support of the 7-point roadmap from “The New Light of Myanmar” [22]

Any act of stripping the NLD of the authority mandated by the people would of course be diametrically opposed to the consistent affirmations expressed in the consensus resolutions of the United Nations that “the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government and that the will of the people of Myanmar was clearly expressed in the elections held in 1990" -- See Language on the 1990 elections and transfer of power in Burma taken from the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights [23]

One central factor not stated by the “roadmap” is, after the National Convention has ended, who will actually draft the new constitution. The Detailed Basic Principles are so detailed as to leave little room for further drafting. This has led some observers to consider the National Convention as a de facto constituent assembly. The third step of the “roadmap”, however, the drafting of a new constitution, is placed as a separate stage, after “the successful holding of the National Convention” and will presumably be carried out by another body. What body is not stated, though  SLORC Declaration 1/90 of 27 July 1990 had said that “the representatives elected by the people are those who have the responsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State”. This provision of Declaration 1/90 has never been revoked, so far as I know, and since the new elections announced in the “roadmap” are to be held after a new constitution is in place, the only elected representatives available are those elected in 1990. Sceptics doubt that the SPDC intends the NLD to form a constituent assembly, but this is what Declaration 1/90 says. Questions which could be asked about the seven steps are, therefore:

Step one:  Reconvening of the National Convention that has been adjourned since 1996:

a. Regarding the procedures, categories and proportions of delegates, committee structures etc. in the reconvened National Convention: will those of the 1993-1996 Convention be retained in full, amended or scrapped? And who will decide?

b. Regarding the “6 objectives”, the “104 Principles” and the seven completed chapters of “Detailed Basic Principles”: will they be retained in full, amended or scrapped? And who will decide?


Step two:
After the successful holding of the National Convention, step by step implementation of the process necessary for the emergence of a genuine and disciplined democratic system.

a. What does this mean in concrete terms?


Step three:
 - Drafting of a new constitution in accordance with basic principles and detailed basic principles laid down by the National Convention.

a. Since the “roadmap” places this step after the completion of the National Convention, what body will act as the Constituent Assembly?  According to Declaration 1/90 of 27 July 1990, it is “the representatives elected by the people are those who have the responsibility to draw up the constitution of the future democratic State.” Will the representatives elected in 1990 be invited to carry out this responsibility?

b. Question b. on step one applies here also.

Steps four to seven depend on the provisions in the new constitution.

 

2. Commentaries on the National Convention process


* The principal extended commentary
is Janelle Diller's seminal 1996 report[24]  The National Convention in Burma (Myanmar): An Impediment to the Restoration of Democracy [25]

“The report's specific findings about the SLORC's current actions are the following:

Supplanting the Electoral Mandate. The SLORC has consistently refused to convene the parliamentary assembly elected in 1990, despite repeated requests by the landslide victor, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD made its most recent request on 25 March 1996, a copy of which is attached as an annex to this Report. In an attempt to sidestep the pro-democracy electoral mandate, the SLORC has initiated an unrepresentative and restrictive National Convention to draft a new constitution. As of this writing, less than three percent of Convention delegates are elected representatives and none are from the NLD. In late November 1995, the SLORC expelled all the NLD delegates from the Convention for boycotting the meeting for two days following the SLORC's refusal of an NLD request to review working methods of the Convention. The working methods of the Convention include prior censorship and criminally-enforced restrictions on free discussion and debate.

Obstructing Genuine Dialogue. The SLORC government has roundly rebuffed any calls for genuine negotiations, even from highly respected elders in the country, with the NLD and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minorities' representatives. Consistently, the SLORC has offered the unrepresentative National Convention as the only forum for dialogue regarding Burma's transition to a democratic government.

Dismantling Political Structures and Suppressing Independent Activity. SLORC has used the now three-year old National Convention as a means to gain time to methodically suppress independent political activity. Since the elections in 1990, the SLORC has systematically nullified the elected status of nearly 25 percent of the winners in the 1990 elections, and has de-registered more than 80 percent of the parties that participated in the 1990 elections. The results have left gaping holes in the membership of a yet-to-be convened parliamentary assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw), and only 10 of 93 political parties that contested the elections are still functioning lawfully. In addition, a governmental policy of retaliation in the form of arrests, detention, denial of educational and economic benefits, and violent threats have chilled most independent attempts at political expression and association.

Ensuring Permanent Military Control over Law and Politics. Over objection by elected representatives, the SLORC has required that all constitutional principles being drafted at the Convention conform with six Convention objectives, one of which is to provide a leading role for the military in the political life of Burma. The Convention's adopted principles, which are so detailed as to leave no discretion to any future drafters, reflect a legal and political system in which the military will dominate a civilian government by forced participation in executive and legislative bodies at all levels of government. A centrist system is devised that fails to address the calls of ethnic nationalities for greater political autonomy at the local level. To entrench its political presence and attempt to win support for its new constitution, the SLORC has developed the nation-wide Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA). The association serves as a patronage system to buy popular allegiance through special privileges and threatened loss of jobs or social benefits. The USDA has sponsored forced attendance at numerous mass rallies to express support for the work of the National Convention and condemn the NLD and others who are seeking a civilian-led democratic form of government with respect for human rights.”
(extract from the Overview and summary)


* The United Nations resolutions on the situation of human rights in Myanmar have made regular comments on the National Convention - see Language on the National Convention in UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions [26] Contrary to the National Convention/“roadmap” process, which sets aside the results of the 1990 elections, the United Nations General Assembly in its annual Burma resolutions has, since 1991, consistently upheld the results of those elections, urging the Government of Myanmar "to take all necessary steps towards the restoration of democracy, fully respecting the will of the people as expressed in the democratic elections held in 1990" (A/RES/47/144 of 1992 at GA 1992: Resolution on the situation in Myanmar [27] ) and affirming that "the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government and that the will of the people of Myanmar was clearly expressed in the elections held in 1990" (A/C.3/58/L.68/Rev.1 of 2003 at GA 2003: Resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar [28]) Similar resolutions have been adopted by the Commission on Human Rights.

* The Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar appointed by the Commission on Human Rights have submitted reports to the Commission and the General Assembly since 1992. These reports contain assessments of the National Convention since its beginning, during its first period (1993-1996) and in his latest report to the Commission the current Rapporteur, Sr. Paolo Sergio Pinheiro adds his comments on the “roadmap” -- see   Paragraphs on the National Convention from the reports of the Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar to the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights [29]

* The Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world's most authoritative body on parliaments and constitutions, has dismissed the National Convention as a device to frustrate the democratic process, and at its October 2003 session extended this assessment to the "roadmap":  "[The Inter-Parliamentary Union] … Expresses serious doubts about the recently presented "road map", step one of which suggests that the National Convention be reconvened; reaffirms its conviction that the National Convention is designed to prolong and legitimise military rule against the will of the people, as expressed in the 1990 elections, and thus stands in direct opposition to the principle enshrined the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the ‘will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’"; (para 20 of  Inter-Parliamentary Union (Geneva, October 2003): Myanmar [30]

* See The National Convention (commentaries, chronologies etc.) [31] for several more texts


3. International and regional actors should assess the "roadmap" by examining the National Convention process.

If, as seems likely, the resumed National Convention follows the procedure and structure indicated above, then we can learn a lot about the first step of the "roadmap" from the proceedings of the National Convention at The National Convention (preparations, procedures, proceedings, legislation, official statements etc.) [32]   The National Convention (texts of Principles) [33]   and elsewhere, and from the various analyses by international bodies and legal authorities which can be found, for instance, at The National Convention (commentaries, chronologies etc.) [34]  

International and regional actors, some of whom are taking the "roadmap" seriously as a possible way forward for Burma/Myanmar, should therefore make a careful study of this material and allow it to inform their policies.


Geneva, March-April 2004

Email darnott@iprolink.ch

The present document is online (easier to follow the links) at http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/how10.htm

 

[1] This guide uses the term “National Convention process” to include the planning, legislation and other aspects of the process such as the “roadmap” which precede or succeed the actual National Convention which began in 1993 and was adjourned in 1996.

[2] The State Law and Order Restoration Council, which took power on 18 September 1988.

[3] The State Peace and Development Council – the re-named SLORC (from 1997)

[5] e.g. in then Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw’s 10 October 1990 address to the UN General Assembly.

[6] The rather breezy statements of then Head of State, Sr. Gen. Saw Maung, contain very little in the way of pre-conditions for transfer of power. In contrast, the statements of Gens. Khin Nyunt and Tin Oo and the Information Committee, especially after the 1990 election, are much more guarded and packed with conditions.

[7] WPD = The Working People’s Daily, the regime’s daily English-language newspaper, subsequently re-named The New Light of Myanmar. 4/13/1990 = 13 April 1990. These extracts are from The Burma Press Summary which consists of summaries and full texts from The Working People’s Daily and The New Light of Myanmar compiled between 1987 and 1996 by Hugh MacDougall. This important archive is online at http://public.ibiblio.org/gsdl/cgi-bin/library?site=localhost&a=p&p=about&c=burmaps&ct=0 and is searchable by date and keyword.

[24] For the International League of Human Rights and Rights and Democracy.