Alliance Calls for 'United States' of Burma

By Khin Oo Tha 11 October 2012

An alliance of 10 political parties, including five ethnic parties, plans to raise the issue of federalism in Parliament.

Their proposal includes a proposal for all 14 states or regions in Burma to be awarded equal rights and administration. The alliance said it will submit a draft outlining its proposal and will submit it to President Thein Sein as well as raising the issue for debate in both houses of parliament.

The parties involved were named as: All Mon Regions Democracy Party; National Democratic Front; Rakhine Nationalities Development Party; Shan Nationalities Development Party; Chin National Party; Democracy and Peace Party; Democratic Party (Myanmar); Phalon Sawaw Democratic Party; Union Democracy Party; and the Peace and Unity Party.

The 10 parties formed a unified proposal at a meeting in Rangoon on Wednesday, according to Thu Wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar).

“We want 14 states or regions with administrative power equally divided among them in accordance with a federal system,” he said. “We envisage a federal system similar to the United States,” said Thu Wai.

Saw Than Myint, a spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, told The Irrawaddy that he is encouraged that so many ethnic Burman parties also agreed to support a genuine federal union.

He said that ethnic Burmans who refuse to accept the concept of federalism are remnants of the former military dictatorship under Gen Ne Win, which frequently stated in its propaganda that federalism was akin to separatism.

“It is encouraging to see that ethnic Burman parties now support the idea of federalism,” said Saw Than Myint.

Under its full and official name, Burma is now known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Saw Than Myint said that despite Burma’s official name being based on a Union under the constitution of 2008, sovereignty is essentially controlled directly by a central government.

“We have decided to put our efforts into forming a genuine federal system in our country by 2015 or 2020,” he said.

Various ethnic leaders also expressed a desire to amend the 2008 Constitution in order to build a federal union. Several ethnic leaders within the alliance said they planned to meet with President Thein Sein to talk about their proposal, following a meeting with him in July.

Burma is currently divided into seven ethnic states and seven division or regions. However, the alliance proposes a federal union comprising 14 states.

The leaders of the alliance said that they will cooperate with Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), as Suu Kyi has also spoken out in favor of constitutional amendments.

Suu Kyi said this week that she would be willing to accept the role of president if the majority of people in Burma supported her. However, the constitution would need to be amended to allow such a circumstance, because under the current document, any Burmese national whose family member or members are foreign citizens or who hold foreign citizenship are barred from running for president or vice-president.

Suu Kyi married Michael Aris, a British scholar, in 1971 and gave birth to her eldest son, Alexander, the following year in London. Her younger son, Kim Aris, was born in 1977. Both of her sons have UK citizenship.