The Constitution and Emergency Powers in Myanmar

One of the key challenges as a transitional and democratising state is how the government of Myanmar will deal with social tensions and conflict that arise between religious and ethnic communities. The use of emergency powers is one response, although these powers raise serious questions about the capacity and role of a government to address complex social conflicts. Under the 2008 Constitution, the power to declare a state of emergency is dealt with at some length in Chapter XI (art 410 – 435).
The President has exercised his wide powers to declare a state of emergency twice since the Constitution came into effect in 2011. In this article, I critically examine the use of the constitutional power of emergency. I begin by analysing the response of the executive to the conflict in Rakhine state from June to October 2012, and in Meikhtila District in March 2013. I outline the key elements of emergency powers and identify the challenges to the rule of law inherent in the existing constitutional provisions, including how an emergency is defined, the conditions under which it can be declared, who has the power to make such a declaration, how long it lasts, and what effect it has on human rights.

The full article, which is forthcoming in Panorama, Special Ed on Myanmar in Transition, can be accessed here.