The Constitution of Myanmar: A Contextual Analysis

Melissa Crouch (Hart Publishing)

This timely and accessible book is the first to provide a thorough analysis of the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar (Burma) in its historical, political and social context. The book offers an in-depth exploration of the key elements of the 2008 Constitution in theory and practice. The book canvasses the historical foundations of the Constitution and the issue of credibility raised by the past process of constitution-making. The book identifies and articulates the principles of the Constitution through an analysis of legal and political process since the 1990s. It highlights critical constitutional contestations that have taken place over fundamental principles such as democracy, federalism, executive-legislative relations, judicial independence and the role of the Tatmadaw (armed forces). This book suggests that the 2008 Constitution is crucial to the establishment and maintenance of the military-state. The military-state promotes the role of the military in governance, including its ideology, and insists on a qualified notion of democracy and loyalty to the Union. The Constitution represents a codified and hybrid system, blending remnants of its earlier model of parliamentary democracy with an agenda of socialist-military legality. From its inception in the 1990s, this constitutional vision and its associated institutions have been the subject of fierce contestation. Not least is debate over the militarisation of governance through direct and indirect means. Central to the future of the Constitution and the military-state in Myanmar is the role of the Tatmadaw in governance, and the extent to which the country may shift from a highly centralised Union to a federal or decentralised system of governance.

“Myanmar’s Constitution was not expected to matter much when it was adopted in 2008, but Professor Crouch demonstrates that it has produced a vigorous set of debates about the country’s trajectory. This is the definitive English-language volume on Myanmar’s Constitution and essential for anyone following the country.” Professor Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago 
“Dr Crouch’s book is a remarkable exploration of the emerging constitutional order of Myanmar – deeply knowledgeable about Myanmar’s constitutional history, conscious of the profound divisions within Myanmar and the consequent array of demands made upon that order, and acute in its interpretations of a constitution undergoing rapid change. This book will be of great interest to those wishing to understand law and government in Myanmar, but also those interested generally in transitions from military rule, the governance of ethnically diverse societies, and the transition from colonial to post-colonial political orders.” Professor Jeremy Webber, University of Victoria 
“This is a welcome and timely new contribution to the excellent Hart series. It offers a well-informed analysis of the current constitutional arrangements in Myanmar, at a time when proposals for change are once again under discussion. The book will be an invaluable resource for those interested in Myanmar, Asian constitutional systems and multi-level government in times of transition.” Professor Cheryl Saunders, University of Melbourne