Myanmar - Government
Head of State
Head of Government
|After Independence (1948-today)|
|1948-||President Sut Shwe Thike||Prime Minister U Nu|
|1953-58||President Dr.Ba Oo||Prime Minister U Nu|
|1958-60||General Ne Win||General Ne Win|
|1959-62||President Mahn Win Maung||Prime Minister U Nu|
|1962-74||General Ne Win||General Ne Win|
|1974-84||President U Ne Win||President U Ne Win|
|1984-88||President U Ne Win||President U San Yu|
|1988||President U Sein Lwin||President U Sein Lwin|
|1988||President Dr.Maung Maung||President Dr.Maung Maung|
|1988-1990||Prime Minister SGen. Saw Maung||Prime Minister SGen. Saw Maung|
|1990-2004||Chairman SGen.Than Shwe||Prime Minister SGen.Than Shwe|
|2004-2007||Chairman SGen.Than Shwe||Prime Minister SGen.Soe Win|
|2007-2011||Chairman SGen.Than Shwe||Prime Minister SGen.Thein Sein|
|2011-present||President SGen.Thein Sein||Prime Minister SGen.Thein Sein|
The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative subdivisions include seven primarily Burman divisions (tain) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay); Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Karenni State, Mon State, Arakan State, Shan State, Rangoon Division, Mandalay Division, Tenessarim Division, Irrawaddy Division, Pegu Division, Magway Division, and Sagaing Division.
Burma remains an authoritarian country dominated by active or former members of the military. The nation is headed by a civilian president and two vice presidents. On paper, power is apportioned between executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The military remains an institution unto itself, and the head of the armed forces retains the right to invoke extraordinary powers including the ability to suspend civil liberties and abrogate parliamentary authority.
In 1962 General Ne Win led a coup abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic priorities. These policies had devastating effects on the country's economy and business climate. In March 1988 student disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation which evolved into a call for change in regime. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. It was at a rally following this massacre that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of leader of the opposition.
On 18 September 1988 the military deposed the Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), abolished the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to "restore order," the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled into the hills and border areas. The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held on May 27, 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to call the Parliament into session and imprisoned many political activists. The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition.
In November 2005, the ruling regime unexpectedly relocated the capital city from Rangoon to Nay Pyi Taw, located in central Burma approximately 200 miles north of Rangoon, further isolating the government from the public and international community. Most government workers and ministries moved to Nay Pyi Taw over the following 6 months, and rapid development of the new capital continues. Foreign diplomatic missions are still located in Rangoon and as of 2011 no country had announced plans to move its embassy to Nay Pyi Taw.
Administrative control is exercised from the central government through a system of subordinate executive bodies. Power is centered on the ruling junta -- the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC--which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. Control is maintained through the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups. Today the SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses. Any future political transition will have to be negotiated among the SPDC, the political opposition, and representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities.
The constitution of January 3, 1974 was suspended since September 18, 1988 when junta took power. The Executive consisted of a Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Legislative branch is a unicameral People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) with 485 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the Assembly was never convened. The legal system was based on the British-era system, but now the junta rules by Decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent. The National League for Democracy (NLD) was the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) was the primary pro-regime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a pro-regime social organization; and other smaller parties.
A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but progress was long stalled. Following the regime's 1993 proclamation of a seven-step roadmap to democracy and a subsequent national convention which convened intermittently, the regime in September 2007 concluded the process of "drafting" principles for the new constitution. Delegates to the convention were not allowed to debate freely, discuss, or attempt to amend the principles.
In October 2007, the SPDC appointed 54 pro-regime persons to sit on a constitution drafting committee. The government declared the completion of the constitution drafting committee's work in February 2008, and announced that it would hold a national referendum on the constitution in May 2008, with multi-party elections planned for 2010. While the referendum law provided for a secret ballot, free debate was not permitted and activities considered "interfering with the referendum" carried a 3-year prison sentence. The government carried out the referendum in May 2008 amidst the aftermath of the humanitarian disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis. Although the referendum was rife with irregularities, the government announced that 92.48% of voters approved the constitution, with a 98% voter turnout. Independent observers did not consider those figures to be credible.
The Defense Services Commander-in-Chief appoints the Minister of Defense, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Border Affairs who will deal with ethnic matters and cross-border issues. The Chief Ministers for Region Hluttaws (Assemblies) and State Hluttaws (Assemblies) are to be appointed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services. Unlike in many countries where the head of the executive is normally the commander in chief of the armed forces in line with the principle of civilian control of the military, the President in Myanmar is not the Commander in Chief of the army. This position is retained by the military who effectively displaces the President in times of national emergency threating national unity. The 2008 constitution also granted the military immunity from prosecution and freedom from public accountability and legitimizes military subjugation of ethnic nationality communities.
On 21 October 2008 Myanmar started to use new state flag prescribed in the new state constitution. The council enacted some laws concerning state flag, state seal and national anthem in accordance with the new state constitution. The state flag, state seal and national anthem had been prescribed in the new state constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar approved through a national referendum in May 2008.
The 2008 constitution provided for popularly elected legislators to a bicameral parliament; however, it stipulates that at least 25 percent of the seats must be reserved for military members appointed by the uniformed commander in chief of Defense Services. It also bars many persons from office who had not resided in the country for at least 10 consecutive years prior to election, had prior misconduct the regime deemed disqualifying, accepted assistance from a foreign government, or were entitled to citizenship of a foreign nation.
Of note, Article 59 prohibits anyone with foreign nationality or relatives from running for President. This effectively excludes opposition leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi of National League for Democracy (NLD) whose children and deceased husband are British citizens.
Additionally, by the constitution's own terms, the SPDC continued to "exercise state sovereignty" until the parliament is convened, which was scheduled for January 31, 2011.
In early August 2010 the Union Election Commission [UEC] announced there would be 330 township-based constituencies of the lower house (People's Parliament), 168 constituencies of the upper house (National Parliament), and 665 constituencies of the regional/state parliaments. One-quarter of all national and regional parliamentary seats were reserved for military appointees. All levels of parliament were scheduled to convene on January 31, 2011. A joint session of the upper and lower houses--the Union Assembly--was to convene within 15 days of that date. In addition the upper and lower houses each were to select a vice president, the military members of both the upper and lower houses would select a third vice president, and the entire bicameral parliament would select the president from among the three vice presidents. The constitution provides for the military to take over the government should the president, who must have a military background, judge the security situation to be unstable.
The country held its first elections in 20 years on November 7, 2010. The United States condemned the planning and the execution of the elections as neither free nor fair. The regime proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party won over three-quarters of elective parliamentary seats, although observers around the country reported widespread electoral malfeasance, including abuse of advance voting procedures. Per Burma's 2008 constitution, military appointees fill one-quarter of all parliamentary seats. The new, nominally civilian government took office on April 1, 2011, and the SPDC was dissolved. Insiders from the SPDC era fill almost all key positions at the national level and most at the state/region level.
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