Constitution-making in Divided Societies: The Case of Myanmar

On 13 September 2018 I will be speaking at the Center for Constitutional Democracy, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Indianapolis, on “Constitution-Making in Divided Societies”.

Calls for constitutional reform persist in many countries around the global. Constitutional design and participation in constitution-making presents particular challenges in divided societies. Demands for constitutional change are often perceived as an unwanted critique of the current political regime and for this reason are highly controversial, even deadly. This is the case in Myanmar, where in January 2017, the most prominent lawyer and advocate for constitutional reform, U Ko Ni, was brutally assassinated. His death is an illustration of the intense struggle for constitutionalism in Myanmar. My presentation will consider how and why Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution was drafted, and how it has been implemented. In doing so, I will examine the principles and ideas that animate the Constitution. Contrary to analysis that priorities personalities and power plays, I suggest that Myanmar also needs to be understood through the lens of the 2008 Constitution and the structures and rules it embodies.  This presentation is based on my forthcoming book, The Constitution of Myanmar (Hart, 2019). I demonstrate the new lines of inquiry that Myanmar can open up in the field of comparative constitutional law and the way that Myanmar’s Constitution in particular calls us to pay greater attention to constitutional legacies.