The National Convention

The National Convention

By THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Irrawaddy presents a chronology of the developments and setbacks in Burma’s National Convention since 1992.


July 29, 2006

At a meeting in the new administrative capital Naypyidaw, Lt-Gen Thein Sein, chairman of the National Conventional Convening Commission, claims that 75 percent of the new 15-chapter constitution has been drafted.


July 27, 2006

During the Asean Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the junta’s foreign minister Nyan Win says that conclusion of the National Convention could possibly be announced by the Asean Summit in December.


May 24, 2006

The UN Under Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari says the National Convention would not resume until October during a briefing at UN headquarters in New York following his three-day visit to Burma in mid-May.


January 31, 2006

The National Convention adjourns again but no scheduled date for next session is announced.


January 10, 2006

Delegates at the assembly begin discussions on the thorny issue of the Burmese army role in the future government.


December 5, 2005

The National Convention resumes in Nyaung Hnapin camp with a presence of 1,074 of 1080 invited delegates including representative of the ethnic ceasefire groups. An ethnic ceasefire group The New Mon State Party participates in the assembly in a low-profile as observers. Issuing a statement, the US State Department also slams the event as a sham attended by the junta’s hand-picked delegates. During the ongoing event, the military government organizes mass rallies in support of the NC.


March 31, 2005

The National Convention adjourns without scheduling an exact date for next round. Ethnic representatives from ceasefire groups, however, indicate that next session is expected to resume in the end of the year.


February 17, 2005

The NC resumes again in Nyaung Hnapin camp in Rangoon’s Hmawbi Township with attendance of 1,075 delegations including ethnic ceasefire groups. An armed ceasefire group Shan State Army-North, however, leaves the assembly as the junta detains its leader Maj-Gen Sao Hso Ten along with other several others Shan political activists including Hkun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.


February 12, 2005

Issuing a statement on 58th anniversary of Burma's Union Day, the Committee Representing the Peoples' Parliament slams the National Convention. The ethnic umbrella group says that constitution draft by the assembly “could not be expected to guarantee democracy, human rights  and public well being according to the will of the people and it cannot enact a genuine unionist principle that recognize the self determination of the ethnic peoples.”


February 2, 2005

The Burmese military government announces that the assembly is scheduled to reopen on February 17.


July 9, 2004

Officials announces intermission of the assembly during which 13 of 17 ceasefire groups submitted a proposal calling for legislative authority to be devolved to state assemblies and the right for state administrations to maintain armies or militias.


May 17, 2004

The National Convention reopens in Nyaung Hnapin, Hmawbi Township with a presence of 1,076 of invited delegates including representatives from 25 ethnic ceasefire groups. The opposition NLD remains, however, does not participate.


March 30, 2004

Lt-Gen Thein Sein, chairman of the National Conventional Convening Commission, announces that the convention will be reconvened on May 17.


January 7, 2004

Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt meets leaders of the Shan State Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization including Chairman Ta Kalei. According to The New Light of Myanmar, the SSNPLO, based in Southern Shan State, signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta on in 1994, supports the road map and pledges to take part in the plan.


January 3, 2004

Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt meets leaders of the Karenni State Nationalities People’s Liberation Front. The group’s chairman, Sandar, also attends the meeting. State-run The New Light of Myanmar reports that the KNPLF, which forged a ceasefire accord with the junta in 1994, support the road map and promises to attend the National Convention.


December 19, 2003

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomes the junta’s promised National Convention. Annan says in a statement that he is encouraged by Foreign Minister Win Aung’s pledge at a meeting in Bangkok to embark on a seven-step road map to democracy next year by reconvening the convention.


December 15, 2003

During a Thai government-sponsored international meeting “Bangkok Process,” Burma’s Foreign Minister Win Aung says the government would reconvene the National Convention in 2004. Representatives of Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and Singapore attend the three-hour meeting in Bangkok and UN Special Envoy to Burma Razali Ismail also joins the event. Win Aung explains the government’s seven step road map to democracy and claims that Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have established a communication of confidence building as a part of the convention process. Thai Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai heralds the meeting a "breakthrough," though critics maintain it yielded nothing.


December 10, 2003

A Rangoon-based ethnic umbrella organization, the United Nationalities Alliance— UNA is comprised of eight political parties representing ethnic Karen, Chin, Mon, Karenni (Kayah), Arakan and Shan—denounces the road map of the military government.

The US-based Free Burma Coalition cautiously welcomes the National Convention, the first step of the junta’s road map. The FBC says in its statement, "We sincerely believe it is a first step in the right direction for our country, which has long been devastated by political conflicts, economic decay and ethnic discontent." But the group emphasizes that its welcome is not to be misconstrued as a full embrace of the plan. It adds that it is essential for Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to participate in the talks.


November 10, 2003

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticizes Burma’s road map. Several groups, including the United Nationalities Alliance, the Karen National Union and the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, also express their reservations about the military’s plan to restart the National Convention.


Oct 22, 2003

Three more ceasefire groups say they will send delegates to the resumed National Convention, but stipulate several conditions. The United Wa State Army, the Shan State Army-North and the National Democratic Alliance Army, all from Shan State, demand freedom to meet with other ethnic leaders, free choice of delegates, free debate and an assurance that the convention will "lay down democratic principles."


September 2003

The Committee for Representing the People’s Parliament announces that the junta’s road map will not solve the country’s political and economic problems and that ethnic people will not accept it. The CRPP was formed by the National League for Democracy on Sept 16, 1998, because the junta failed to respond to renewed calls to recognize the results of the 1990 elections.


September 24, 2003

Representatives from two ceasefire groups in Kachin State take part in a demonstration to support the road map. The Kachin Independence Organization and New Democratic Army-Kachin both agree to take part in the Convention.


September 22, 2003

The military government organizes mass rallies to support the National Convention and road map.


August 30, 2003

Burma’s new Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt announces a seven-point road map to democracy. The first step is the resumption of the National Convention, but no timeframe or details on delegates is provided.


June 7, 1996

The junta enacts law No 5/96, saying they need to prevent people from working with exile groups from obstructing the functions of the NC. The law, which is called the Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Oppositions, says it is illegal to make speeches or disseminate written statements and which "belittle the National Convention" and make people misunderstand its proceedings. [Click here to see the Law]


March 31, 1996

The Burmese military adjourns the National Convention.


March 25, 1996

The NLD sends the military another request asking for a parliamentary assembly to be convened.


December 23, 1995

The Convention acknowledges and then rejects a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy proposal for the new constitution to be based on the principle of sovereignty resting with the people.


November 29, 1995

The junta expels all of the NLD delegates from the assembly. The number of MPs elected in 1990 now make up less than three percent of all delegates.


November 28, 1995

The National League for Democracy requests a review of the Convention’s working procedures. Specifically, NLD delegates want to repeal orders which censor debate and allow for criminal punishment of those who speak against the military during the Convention. Authorities deny the request and the 86 delegates from the NLD boycott the meetings for two days.


July 10, 1995

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest.


September 2, 1994

Sessions reconvene. Delegates discuss self-administered areas, the legislature, the executive branch and the judiciary. The Convention approves measures insisting that at least a third of the seats in any new parliament go to the military.


May 1994

Another elected representative, Daniel Aung, flees from Burma. He says delegates are frustrated and that the military is silencing independent action.


January 18 to April 9, 1994

Delegates draw up specific chapters on the structure of the state and the head of state. Despite opposition from many of the elected representatives, the convention approves a presidential rather than a parliamentary system. According to the approved draft, the president of Burma must have been a continuous resident for more than 20 years, have political, administrative, military and economic experience and not have a spouse or children who are citizens of another country. Such requirements eliminate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a candidate.


October 15, 1993

Twelve political activists are arrested for speaking out about the National Convention.


September 16, 1993

The Convention is suspended again, as ethnic minority representatives continue to push for a federal system. According to official reports, delegates have agreed to another 104 principles for the draft constitution.


August 4, 1993

The military regime charges Dr Aung Khin Sint, a convention delegate and an NLD MP, for distributing leaflets critical of the Convention, facing a 20-year prison term later on.


June 7, 1993

The National Convention opens again. Rangoon Military Commander Lt-Gen Myo Nyunt says the new constitution must guarantee a leading role for the military in national politics.


April 7, 1993

Meetings are suspended after ethnic minority delegates argue against measures to centralize the political structure. According to reports in the state-run press, delegates have agreed to the first 15 chapters of the draft constitution.


April 1993

One of the elected delegates, Khun Marko Ban, flees to Thailand and accuses the military of imposing its will on Convention participants.


February 1, 1993
The Convention meets again.


January 9, 1993

The National Convention opens, but is suspended after two days. Delegates are alarmed to find the first six objectives have already been laid down.


November 5, 1992

The junta announces that the National Convention will begin on January 9, 1993.


July 10, 1992

The National Convention’s 702 delegates are named. Only 99 of the elected Members of Parliament are invited to attend. Seventy percent of the delegates are township level officials handpicked by the military.


June 23, 1992

The Steering Committee of the National Convention meets for the first time. Diplomats describe the meeting as "window dressing."


May 28, 1992

A Steering Committee is formed to plan the Convention. The committee includes 14 junta officials and 28 people from seven different political parties. It is chaired by Rangoon Military Commander Lt-Gen Myo Nyunt.


April 24, 1992

The junta announces that within six months it will organize a "National Convention" to draft a new constitution.

Six objectives of the NC are:

1. Non-disintegration of the Union;

2. Non-disintegration of national unity;

3. Perpetuation of national sovereignty;

4. Promotion of a genuine multiparty democracy;

5. Promotion of the universal principles of justice, liberty and equality;

6. Participation by the Defence Services in a national political leadership role in the future state.


Updated in August 2006

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