On This Day

The Day the Lawyer Behind Myanmar’s First Constitution Died

By Wei Yan Aung 16 May 2020

YANGON—On this day in 1988, legal expert U Chan Htoon, who was known for his key role in designing the first constitution of Myanmar, passed away.

After qualifying to practice law at the Inner Temple in London, U Chan Htoon designed the details of Myanmar’s first constitution in 1947 as a legal advisor to the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), a mass organization that led Myanmar’s struggle for independence.

To write the constitution, the country’s independence hero and AFPFL leader General Aung San dispatched U Chan Htoon to India to ask for input from Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, who played a key role in drafting the constitution of India.

U Chan Htoon, who was then 41 years old, also traveled to London as a consultant of the British Foreign Office to prepare details for the transfer of power from the British to independent Myanmar. He also travelled to the United States, Ireland and other countries to learn about their constitutions and judicial systems.

He was the first Myanmar national to be invited as an honored guest to attend trial at the New York Supreme Court. He also served as legal advisor for Gen. Aung San and independent Myanmar’s first prime minister, U Nu, in signing agreements with British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to gain independence from Britain.

He served as attorney general and justice of the Supreme Court of independent Myanmar before he died at the age of 82 in Yangon.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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