Constitutional Reform and Peace Process Two Key Problems in Myanmar’s Democratic Transition (Wednesday, 13 March 2019)

Speaker: Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw, Visiting Fellow, Myanmar Studies Programme, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Date : Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Time : 3.00pm

Venue : AS8 #06-46


Two key problems that dominate Myanmar’s still-bumpy transition from 2010 onwards are 1:) constitutionalized dominance of the military in politics; and 2:) unsettled ceasefire and peace process between the Bamar-dominated center and several ethnic minorities on the periphery.  Two post-transition governments—the ex-military, pseudo-civilian Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) government led by President U Thein Sein (2011–16) and the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) party government headed by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (2016–)—employ different strategies to tackle these two problems. Since they themselves were the proxy party of the military regime (1988–2011) that transferred power to them in 2011, the USDP government did not seek to reduce the constitutionalized dominance of the military in politics but initiated an ongoing peace process. On the other hand, one of the stated goals of the NLD government is to reform the constitution to increase civilian rule and reduce military power. Since they cannot focus on constitutional reform alone, the NLD has sought to shoot two birds with one stone, i.e. the 21st Century Panglong–Union Peace Conference. The ongoing conference aims to settle a nationwide ceasefire and peace agreement between the military and ethnic armed groups, and reform the constitution afterwards based on the principles of a democratic, federal union to be agreed among various political stakeholders at the conference. However, it is still difficult to reach the goal until early 2019.


Nyi Nyi Kyaw is a visiting fellow in the Myanmar Studies Programme of the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute. He works on identity, religion, nationalism, social movements, citizenship, law, and constitutionalism. His country of specialization is Myanmar but he closely follows Indonesia and Sri Lanka where religiously-motivated nationalism and populism affects electoral and non-electoral politics. His research has been published in the Review of Faith & International Affairs, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, and Social Identities. He has also contributed to several edited volumes on religion, constitutionalism, and citizenship.