Honouring the 65th Anniversary Union Day
Rare is Union and a thing of great value it is. There are over 190 countries in the world and none of them does not have different national races. However, there are only over 20 Unions constituted with diverse national races. So, Union is rare, accounting for only over ten per cent of the global countries.
Why a Union is invaluable? In reality, every rare thing does not have value. Meteors falling down from the sky are rare but do not worth much like diamond and rubies lying deep in the ground.
Union is rare in terms of number and possesses high value as it is built on mutual trust, friendship and reciprocal magnanimity among national races.
Studying the formation of a Union, the core essence is it is made up of Union members (regions/ states) and these Union members have equal legislative and administrative powers. To stress the equality at Union level, there has established two house executive system Upper House authorized to represent region and state small or large and Lower House based on equal proportion of population.
It is usual to prescribe laws ensuring the equal rights of national races in social, economic, religious and administrative sectors in the constitution of the Union.
Since her independence in 1948, Myanmar has stood as a Union. Myanmar has seen three constitutions so far. The comparative study of these three constitutions will show that the number of states representing ethnic minorities has increased one constitution after another. In other words, it means an increase in rights to represent the ethnic minorities.
For example, there were only three states in the initial stage of the 1947 Constitution, namely Shan State, Kayinni (a) Kayah State and Kachin State. Chin nationals did not demand state and remained in the Union as Division of Chin Feature.
General Aung San and other national leaders acknowledged that Shan State out of these three states is large in size and population that time and deserved to stand as separate state culturally and historically. Kayinni (a) Kayah State was sparsely populated and small in size but its historical background gave it every reason to be a part of the Union. In addition, Sawbwa and Sawphya who had reigned in Shan State and Kayah State with traditional monarchial rule were allowed to join as racial MPs even though it was less democratic. Kachin was a state emerged as a result of magnanimous cooperation of the mainland leaders.
Kachin was constituted with Myitkyina and Bhamo districts and in the colonial period, mountainous regions of theses districts were under the direct control of British governor whereas plain regions mainly dominated by Bamar and Shan nationals were under partial control of British governor, where administrative power was shared by ministers. If Kachin State was to be established only for Kachin nationals, it was absolutely impractical to form Kachin State with mountainous regions alone and there was not even a town to establish as major town of the state. Therefore, mainland leaders combined the mountainous regions with plain areas and formed as Kachin State. So, since its birth, Kachin has been a mixed community of Kachin, Bamar, Shan and other nationals.
In 1947, there were only four Union members three national race states and one feature division. There were problems to designate separate state for Kayin nationals and only a Kayin Affairs Council representing Kayin nationals could be founded. Kayin could later be formed following the amendment to the 1947 Constitution in 1951.
Following the fraction within the AFPFL in late 1950s, Rakhine and Mon nationals were loud in demand for own states.
In the 1974 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the number of Union members had increased to seven divisions and seven states. It is noteworthy that the number of states had increased to seven (Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan) for the political system of the country that time was more like a unitary state with only one parliament rather than a Union. In the public opinion polls on the draft of the 1974 Constitution, people voted most in favour of the unitary state. When the six types of state structure suggested by the people were discussed within the Constitution Drafting Committee, most of its members supported the nine divisions and four states type. The final agreement to form seven states showed the goodwill of the majority to acknowledge national races as independent members of the Union.
The 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, in comparison with previous constitutions, can be said to be in most compliance with Union type for six self-administered zones to a certain extent of size and population are included in the structure of the Union apart from seven regions and seven states, increasing to 13 members of the Union.
While the number of the regions of national races has gradually increased from four to 13, the executive and legislative standards have improved considerably. In the 1947 Constitution, there were only State Councils in states constituted with Pyidaungsu Hluttaw representatives and the state chief minister (state chairman) and no separate state chamber and state government whereas the 2008 Constitution has allowed separate state chamber and state government. The 1947 Constitution allowed monarchial chieftains to take a grip over state councils and legislature, and thus it can be concluded that they were even more power than colonial period.
National races who do not have own regions but have appropriate population were taken into consideration in the 2008 Constitution. Representatives of such national races are allowed to join the legislature of respective region or state and self-administered region and can be appointed as national races affairs minister in respective region or state government.
There has been more focus on equal participation of national races in legislation and administration. Meanwhile, there have been guarantees for rights and privileges of national races.
Furthermore, a sheer quantity of completed and ongoing actions is seen in the spirit of constitution for real growth of Union Spirit.
The most significant efforts are of peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups remained outside legal fold. Within one year after holding of the office, the new government could pave the path to peace holding talks with 11 ethnic armed groups. It is striving to put out the raging flame of armed conflicts through profound political talks rather than ceasefire agreement. What is notable is that the people and social organizations are actively lending a hand in peace efforts. Therefore, peace negotiations have entered into Union level agreement from state level.
Meanwhile, the government has initiated such measures as creation of new jobs, establishment of industrial zones and transportation, education, health and social development plans so that the local people can earn their livelihood at ease.
The goodwill of the government is that it intends to build lasting peace rather than temporary one through political means plus development measures.
Here, it needs to appreciate the former Tatmadaw government for its infrastructural development endeavours which brought about sound foundation in socio-economic improvement and special economic zones establishment.
Taking a look at the big picture, the little acorn of Union Spirit initially planted by national leader General Aung San and national race leaders on 12 February, 1947 has grown into a big tree with branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. Likewise, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar is marching on the right path to democratic society with amicable cooperation of the entire national people.
The key to the success of these reforms forwarding to the new era is solidification of Union Spirit and national solidarity. If the new nation is like a brick building, the Union Spirit plays the role of cement which glues the bricks together. All the national people are to work cooperatively and actively in the interests of the entire Union embracing Union Spirit and national solidarity with heartfelt affection and goodwill.