[SydPhil] NISL/AMCDP SEMINAR: Transition from Military Rule in Burma/Myanmar

Martin Krygier m.krygier at unsw.edu.au
Wed Mar 4 11:57:04 AEDT 2015

The UNSW Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law, and
the Australia-Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project

invites you to attend a seminar:

Andrew McLeod


The Transition from Military Rule in Burma/Myanmar:
Beyond a Narrative of Linear Progress

Thursday, 19 MARCH 2015

Dean's Board Room
2nd Floor

DRINKS: 5.30 - 6.00 pm
Would those interested in attending the seminar please let Martin Krygier (m.krygier at unsw.edu.au<mailto:m.krygier at unsw.edu.au>) know ahead of time.

The prospect of Myanmar's emergence from military rule has intrigued constitutional scholars by its apparent improbability. After two decades of near-complete isolation, a council of generals led the adoption of a new constitution in 2008; ceded power to a quasi-civilian regime in 2011; permitted the establishment of a constitutional reform process in 2013 with the stated aim of supporting stronger multi-party democracy and greater local autonomy; and in October 2014 confirmed multi-party elections for the end of 2015. The pace of these reforms, and the absence to date of concrete outcomes, has prompted suggestions that the transition is a sham and that the trajectory of change has reversed. Skeptics also note that these constitutional developments are taking place against the backdrop of a frustrated peace process that seeks to resolve decades-long armed conflicts between the military and ethnic groups.

This paper suggests a fresh reading of Myanmar's transition from military rule, offering tentative lessons for theorists of constitutional transitions. The linear approach to analyzing such transitions, marking progress in terms of the military's gradual withdrawal from political positions leading to genuine acceptance of full civilian control, is insufficient to assess Myanmar's ongoing constitutional reform process. I argue that understanding the transition underway in Myanmar requires looking further back in the country's constitutional history to reveal a more complex set of legal and political factors. The case of Myanmar is better explained in terms of a long planned and carefully executed constitutional and political transformation, where events are often orchestrated by the same actors who ruled before the transition and where seemingly spontaneous outbursts of protest are rooted in decades-old conflicts. I argue that a closer, contextualized reading of constitutional dynamics in Myanmar offers useful insight for studies of constitutional transitions, highlighting reference points, actors and dynamics worthy of closer attention when making sense of transitions involving the military.

Andrew McLeod is a research fellow in law at the University of Oxford and directs the Oxford-Burma Law Programme. For the past two years, he has led law and higher-education projects in Myanmar and served as an adviser on the constitutional reform process. He provides analysis on South-east Asia as region head for the global strategic consultancy firm Oxford Analytica. His commentary regularly features across the BBC, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

Andrew was previously a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Sydney and special adviser to the H C Coombs Policy Forum, within the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. He served as associate to the chief justice of Australia and worked as a senior analyst and speechwriter within the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He holds degrees in law and chemistry from the University of Oxford and the University of Sydney.

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