This policy brief examines the background for the 2008 constitution and its main problems from an ethno-political point of view; discusses some of the amendments needed in order to accommo-date ethnic aspirations; and discusses how such amendments might be agreed upon.
The ongoing political changes in Myanmar/Burma may provide only partial solutions to the country’s problematic nation-building. For more than sixty years, ethnic conflicts and civil wars have prevented the construction of a functioning state. While a new round of ceasefire negotiations, beginning in 2011, between the government and various ethnically defined armed groups may constitute the first steps towards a comprehensive peace, they are only first steps. Ethnic leaders want a genuine political dialogue on the basis of equality. Much of that dialogue will need to be about constitutional amendments. Myanmar’s 2008 constitution does not satisfy the aspirations of the country’s main ethnic groups, and it includes fundamental barriers to needed political change.