On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Junta Pushed Through 2008 Constitution

By The Irrawaddy 29 May 2021

On this day in 2008, less than one month after over 100,000 people were killed by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, military dictator Senior General Than Shwe announced the promulgation of the 2008 Constitution.

Nargis struck the coast of Myanmar on the evening of May 2, 2008, smashing almost all the buildings in the Irrawaddy delta and affecting millions of people, especially in Yangon and Bago regions and Mon and Karen states.

The junta, however, decided to proceed with the vote, holding the constitutional referendum in most of Myanmar on May 10 and in the more severely affected areas on May 24, 2008.

While people were still in desperate trouble, the regime reported a heavy turnout and said 98.12 percent of eligible voters took part and 92.48 percent voted in favor. The constitution thus earned the satirical name, the Nargis constitution.

After refusing to recognize the results of the 1990 general election, which brought a landslide victory to the National League for Democracy (NLD), the military regime took 14 years from 1993 to 2007 to design the constitution which guarantees its political leadership and bars NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

The first general election since the 1990 poll was held in 2010 based on the 2008 Constitution, which saw the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party winning the vote and taking the office. However, no significant changes could be introduced under both the USDP and NLD, which came to power at the 2015 general election.

Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who was handpicked by his predecessor Than Shwe, seized power from the NLD government in February after the party repeated its electoral victory in the November 2020 general election.

Constitutions were scrapped when military chief General Ne Win seized power in 1962 and Gen Saw Maung took power in 1988. However, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said he would act in line with the 2008 Constitution.

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