BLC has been actively participating in drafting the future constitution of Burma. Regarding constitutional matters, we have in recent times observed the increasing awareness by all sectors of Burmese society and the ethnic minorities in particular, resulting in their consciousness of the absolute need for a proper constitution that guarantees their survival and growth. The task of BLC is increasingly becoming challenging due to such awareness, and in the coming months we will be provided with opportunities to play a pivotal role in constitutional matters.
The National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) is an umbrella organization of pro-democracy and ethnic organizations. It has spent several years working towards the development of a draft Constitution for a future federal union of Burma. To date a first draft has been completed and circulated, and the NCUB is now preparing to revise and improve this draft in order to facilitate further research and suggestions. A drafting committee has been formed. In the Drafting Committee (under the aegis of the NCUB) the Secretary of the BLC has been appointed as coordinator, and seven other BLC members are included in the Committee. A draft proposal has been prepared on behalf of the Drafting Committee, and it is being circulated in revised forms along with revised comments.
The drafting process will be preceded by various study trips to learn from the particular situations and constitutional development of other countries. A detailed project proposal was needed, to explain the four main constitutional topics selected for further research and for explanation of the steps intended to be followed by the committee in preparing the second draft. BLC undertook the preparation of this proposal, which is now being circulated among committee members for discussion.
The BLC continues to remain active in preparing the second draft of a future constitution of Burma. A funding proposal has been finalized, and it is now being submitted to potential sponsors on behalf of the NCUB. Copies of the draft proposals will be circulating among foreign embassies in Bangkok, including those of Norway and Sweden.
In 2000, many ethnic organizations, including the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Karen National Union, requested BLC to help them in developing their state constitution. BLC representatives have agreed to assist ethnic groups with drafting a model state constitution. The model which is now being drafted will serve as a starting point or framework for those ethnic communities who are committed to drafting their own State constitution, but have met technical or process difficulties.
BLC is currently the only organization with a consistent program and aim for education on constitutional knowledge. The topic has been addressed regularly in BLC’s publications and training courses. BLC intends to continue its emphasis on constitutional education, dealing not only with the national constitution but also the state constitutions for each of the provinces.
For this purpose, the BLC has played and will play a significant role with the following agendas:
(1) With further knowledge on constitution and federalism, already learnt from the United States, Australia, and India, and gained from an observation trip to Germany from 3 to 17 December 2001, the awareness-raising program on Federal Constitution among the local-level activists and political organizations will be effectively promoted. The BLC will implement this program with the assistance of over 500 former participants of the BLC trainings and the BLC- initiated training teams that have already been formed in some ethnic areas as well as along the border areas of Burma;
(2) The BLC’s Executive Committee (EC) members have already participated in Federal Constitution Drafting Committee of the NCUB. This drafting process will be expanded and promoted;
(3) With the assistance of the National Reconciliation Program (NRP), the State Constitution Drafting Committees of Shan, Chin, Karen, Karenni and Mon have already been formed. The BLC will provide legal assistance to those committees upon their request so that all the draft constitutions will be within the framework of the Federal Union;
(4) The demand of the activists and organizations for previous publications in the Journal of Constitutional Affairs has obviously increased. Once funding is available, the BLC intends to compile all previous publications into one and print it for wider distribution among the people;
(5) The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma has already requested the BLC to assign BLC General Secretary as the Secretary of the Federal Affairs Committee of the NCGUB. BLC’s EC has already agreed on this request. In 2002, in terms of academics, the BLC will fully cooperate with the Federal Affairs Committee of the NCGUB in its attempt to resolve the issues among ethnic nationalities by all means, including one which is to produce a Federal Constitution for future Burma, aiming to establish a democratic and civilized society through a genuine national reconciliation and good governance.
The Mon, Karen, Karenni, Wa, Palaung, Pa-O, Lahu, Chin and Arakanese, as well as Kachin youth, have requested BLC to provide more training in their areas and to assist in workshops on constitutional issues as resource persons. Regarding constitutional matters, there continues to be an increasing awareness by all sectors of Burmese society and the ethnic nationalities of the absolute need for a proper constitution, that guarantees their survival and growth and their relationships with each other in a federal union.
Activities on Federal Affairs Committee (NCGUB)
U Aung Htoo continued taking responsibility as the Secretary of the Federal Affairs Committee (NCGUB). A meeting attended by full members of Committee was held in Maesod NCGUB office on 24-25, January. The participants were as follows: