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“Should Myanmar become a Federal State?” is the main question for the essay about federalism. The purpose of this article is to explain why Myanmar should become a federal state. At first, definitions of federalism will be provided, along with a brief introduction of federalism background in Myanmar. Second, using a comparative method, certain federal nations will be compared to Myanmar. In the concluding section, there will be some suggestions about the federalism in Myanmar.
Myanmar is one of the most multicultural countries in Southeast Asia, with people of different races and cultures living side by side. Most of the country’s population is Burman; two-thirds are Burmans. Approximately one-third of the country is populated by minorities, with the majority being Burmans. Historically, the creation of states affects the outcome of the federal-unitary division. After the military coup of 1962, state governing structures became larger and more centralized after the breakup of the Panglong agreement and the 1947 draft constitution. Federalism has been re-emerging since the big political reform in 2011, the complexities of unitarianism, centralism, authoritarianism, and militarism still influence federalizing Myanmar. The 2021 coup certainly plunged Myanmar into a political black hole and the future of the country looks even grimmer due in part to the lack of consensus among anti-junta political stakeholders about what they are working toward and about the country that they intend to build.
“Federalism refers to the advocacy of multi-tiered government combining elements of shared-rule and regional self-rule. Within the genus of federal political systems, federations represent a particular species in which neither the federal nor the constituent units of government are constitutionally subordinate to the other, i.e., each has sovereign powers derived from the constitution rather than another level of government, and each is empowered to deal directly with its citizens in the exercise of its legislative, executive and taxing powers and each is directly elected by its citizens”. In addition, Watts emphasizes both shared governance and self-rule in federations, following. A region, a state, a province, or a canton can exercise self-rule over their territories. Subnational governments are also able to influence and make decisions at the center when there is shared-rule.
Myanmar is predominantly ethnically mixed and has suffered a decade-long civil war. The majority group in Myanmar is called the Burmans; they make up about two thirds of the population. The remainder is constituted by a variety of minorities. Before occupied the area in the nineteenth century, the minorities were not fully integrated into the Burman kingdom. Many minority groups in the country were afraid of being politically and militarily dominated by the Burmans after left at the end of World War II. As a result, virtually every other minority group joined the Karen revolt in 1948. The military took over power in 1962. Democracy versus militarism is not at the core of the conflict in Burma, it was fundamentally an ethnic issue. Burma’s underlying ethnic issues will prevent the country from becoming stable no matter how democratic the country becomes.
A fraudulent referendum was held in 2008 to ratify the military government’s draft constitution. Although the new constitution is dictatorial, the military continues to have the upper hand: there is no civilian control over the army. Military chiefs are appointed by the commander-in-chief, as are members of state and union legislatures. According to talks between the negotiators and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) after the 2010 elections, the new civilian president showed surprising openness to reform. As part of the trade negotiations, constitutional reform will be discussed in great detail, and the union negotiators will use the term constitutional decentralization instead of federalism, since they equate the latter term with secession. At the time of U Thein Sein government, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed by eight ethnics armed organizations (EAOs) and government.
After National league for Democracy (NLD) party entry into government in 2012, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cited federalism as a means to resolve Myanmar’s long-standing ethnic conflicts. But her party leaders have rarely developed a detailed policy on federalism and its position on federalism is broad and vague. In the 2015 election, National League for Democracy (NLD) won the election and held the 21st Century Panglong Conference with the aim to unite all ethnicities and of building a democratic federal union through the dialogue. During the NLD administration, as during previous administrations, elite political elites disagreed on which structures would give autonomy to ethnic minorities without causing or exacerbating other problems. But some concessions were made. A federation state has been agreed to be made of Myanmar following the peace process.
The 2021 coup has put the country on the road towards becoming a failed state that is at risk of disintegrating and fragmenting into multiple entities. The anti-coup movement will have a difficult time overcoming the present political crisis without political solidarity among diverse political and ethnic groups.
Comparative studies of federations cover a wide array of issues, including internal fiscal arrangements, economic performance, and political representation. The difficulty of examining federalism in its fullest sense in the mainstream literature is the focus of this comparative study of federalism and federation. In this section, I will compare Myanmar with Nepal, India and Switzerland.
As a response to ethnic conflict and secession risks, Nepal and Myanmar both decided to establish federalism, but Nepal succeeded in creating a federal constitution through participatory democratic means. There are some similarities between Nepal and Myanmar, both countries have histories of centralized authoritarian rule interspersed with periods of short-lived democracy, and are developing countries with more than 100 different ethnicities. A significant part of their move toward federalism stems from ethnic conflict.
As a result of a unitary and centralized state structure, Nepal endured a conflict accompanied by class, ethnic, linguistic, and regional discriminations. Movements called for regional autonomy, national identity, decentralization of power and the preservation of minorities’ rights. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006 and the Interim Constitution of 2007 laid the groundwork for federalization in Nepal. Nepal use federalism as a conflict resolution tool. Myanmar also facing ethnic, linguistics and regional conflicts for a long time. Nepal overcome these conflicts by using federalism as a conflict resolution tool. Thus, Myanmar should become a federal state to resolve and end ethnical related conflicts.
India is a multilingual society with a diversified population. In 1947, India gained independence, and its parliament, which also served as a constituent assembly, drafted a new constitution that established the Federal Union of India. India has 28 states and seven union territories. Although the Indian constitution does not mention ‘federation’ or ‘federalism,’ the country’s basic structure is federal. India encountered territorial conflicts after independence, particularly in Punjab and Nagaland, which were resolved via the use of shared-rule and self-rule and promoted peace. The India constitution delegates power to the states, allowing for self-determination that reduces ethnic tensions and safeguards indigenous cultural, linguistic, and religious identities.
Myanmar has been searching for a political system to accommodate its rich cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious identities since independence. In addition to protecting their populations from exploitation or oppression by the Bamar, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have long pointed to federalism as a way to decentralize power from the central government. They emphasize the right to self-determination as a means of safeguarding their linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions. Some scholar suggested that Myanmar Should follow the India federal. U Myat Thu, chairman of the Yangon School of Political Science, said ‘Myanmar has so many ethnic groups, they should follow India’s federal system because some ethnic groups want to promote the rights of their people. So, we should base it on ethnic federalism’. If Myanmar effectively implements federalism, ethnic tensions will be alleviated by granting equal rights to all ethnic groups in the country. As a result, Myanmar should be made into a federal state.
The 25 cantons that agreed to become the Swiss federal state in 1848 had already existed as independent states (some for centuries) and were already related to one another in a loose alliance of states. Although German Swiss continue to control in terms of overall population and economic power, the Swiss federation is famous for its enormous linguistic and religious diversity. Swiss federalism was able to transform opponents into collaborators over 150 years ago. Each generation must adapt the tools to new circumstances in order to amicably resolve disagreements.
The Union of Burma was established on February 12, 1947, in Panglong, by four former colonies: the Chin, Kachin, Federated Shan States, and Burma Proper, all of which had their own constitutions. Myanmar, like Switzerland, is coming together as a country with vast linguistic and religious variety. Myanmar is home to over a hundred ethnic groups and languages. The civil war between ethnics and Burmese-dominated military was founded on ethnic and religious persecution and prejudice. As mentioned above, Swiss turns the enemies into partner and built a welfare state by conduction federalism effectively. As a nutshell, Myanmar should become a federal state for the sake of the country’s future.
There is no perfect federation in the world. Federalism may adopt peaceful dispute settlement and the rule of law, and all democratic options should be used. All of the federal countries use federalism for many purposes, especially to create a better future for their countries. The previous section’s comparative approach to certain federal nations shows that successfully implementing federalism will resolve or minimize all of Myanmar’s challenges.
Myanmar is now in the critical juncture because of the military coup. Myanmar’s talks on federalism have been radically transformed as a result of the coup, and productive conversations around ‘taing-yin-dhÃ ‘ have begun, although political changes are still far from completion. A reorientation and reimagination of identities and interests based on links of solidarity has the potential to start remaking the country in a more egalitarian and inclusive way.
All of anti-coup movement claim for federalism and the revolutionary government, National Unity Government (NUG) trying to lift the country on the federation path with the collaborations of Ethnics Armed Organizations (EAOs). And also, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) launched a “Federal Democracy Charter” with the federal principle. The first section of the Charter includes commitments to support ethnic minority communities and their claims to self-determination. Federal State is the dream of all ethnics group in the country. Furthermore, all groups’ efforts, from the past to the present, deserve a federal state.
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