"We will not return to the 2008 constitution": NUCC holds seminal press conference

"We will not return to the 2008 constitution": NUCC holds seminal press conference

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) held its first formal press meet today, ten months after the group was forged by fiery necessity during the early days of the coup. 

Formed on March 8, the NUCC is a loose and wide-reaching coalition of groups that hold a social or political stake in modern Burma. The council—which today reiterated both its claims to inclusivity and, as such, its anticipation of a wider future base of constituent actors—hosts representatives from the CRPH, the NUG, 28 various political parties and institutions, prominent CSOs, and those who represent the dynamism of the Spring Revolution: key figures in the women’s rights and youth movements, protest leaders and CDM representatives. 

Despite leading the call for federal democracy in Burma, the real bonding force of the NUCC is a common drive shared between actors involved to finally remove the military from all areas of civil society. Ending the press conference by reasserting this clear line in the sand, Min Ko Naing—a leader of the 88 Generation student movement, early Spring Revolution protest maker, and a member of the NUCC through his links to the ongoing General Strike movement—told those in attendance that the NUCC would categorically commit to not return to the 2008 constitution, Burma’s failed  “roadmap to democracy”.

“The NUCC has reached a draft agreement on federal democracy by consensus and will not return to the 2008 constitution even if the military council enters the negotiating process,” Min Ko Naing said.

Established under the provisions of the Federal Democratic Charter (FDC)—a blueprint devised by the CRPH to supersede the military drafted 2008 constitution—the NUCC is now leading the formation of Burma’s future political landscape by outlining in detail the provisions of the charter that gave birth to it. As such, the forum is the leading institution of Burma’s parallel democratic transition.

Thus far, the body has created two draft pillars of the FDC: Parts 1 and 2. A broadly encompassing text on federalism, Part 1 was drafted after consultation with actors across the political and regional divides, and was reportedly led by ethnic Shan contributors based on the previous efforts of EAOs to achieve a system of governance that provides equitable representation for all. 

After early successes of the NUCC in satisfying broad-based concerns of the disparate actors involved, Part 2—which outlines the complexities of a new interim constitution for Burma and was drafted primarily by NLD representatives—is said to have aroused frictions amongst those participating in the council. Discussions since the formation of the NUG (which failed to entice all NUCC members) in April have likely attempted to find compromise and built trust between parties, leading to a streamlining of the document. The NUCC announced a review process to this end in late May.

In the conference today, it was noted that the NUCC is still in the process of reviewing the FDC, and plans to release a working document in time for the first “People’s Conference”, a six-monthly summit to be held between participants, the first of which is penciled in for December.

This conference appears to be slated to come at the midpoint of what the NUCC today called its “interval period”–which it believes will end upon the removal of the military from public life. Representatives next discussed plans for a transition period leading to the forum’s end-goal: the building of a functioning federal democratic union.

“In the meantime, we will convene the People’s Congress every six months and strengthen the NUCC based on the interim constitutional plan,” said Moe Thu of the General Strike Committee today.

Moe Thu added that the NUCC should be considered the highest political body of Burma, and that it is a focal point for important policy-making decisions.

“Once implemented, the NUCC will take the lead in overseeing the Interim Legislative, Interim Administration (the NUG) and the Interim Judiciary. In the meantime, the NUCC will take the lead in drafting a federal democratic constitution for the transition period,” he said.

On the NUCC’s stickiest issue—that of the regional devolution of power, the legitimacy, and the representation of regional governments—the NUCC, according to Dr. Lian H. Sakhong of the Interim Chin National Advisory Council, has five state councils currently on board with its plans. 

“Currently, there are only five state councils representing the Federal Unit in the NUCC—but we believe it will gradually increase. Those now involved with the State Consultative Council are Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Mon, and Ta’ang / Palaung,” he said. 

As the defeat of the military remains the primary goal of the council, EAO involvement is slightly higher: eight groups are currently part of the NUCC talks. Of the eight, only three were named in today’s conference.

“The ethnic armed groups in the NUCC are the Chin National Front (CNF), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the Karen National Union (KNU) but the names of five other groups will not be released at this time because of the ground situation,” said U Aung San Myint of the Karenni State Consultative Council. 

Aside from the task of bridging Burma’s vast internal divisions to draft a functioning constitution, gaining external support and de facto recognition abroad will also be key to the NUCC’s success. At the conference today, the CRPH’s Lwin Ko Latt praised the National Unity Government (NUG) for its progress in garnering international support.

“Meetings between the NUG government and the international government have escalated, especially after ASEAN banned the military council leader from the summit. The level of recognition has already reached the level of indirect recognition. More than that, they are trying to legitimize the NUG government,” he said. 

The NUG Minister Aung Myo Min has recently undertaken a visit to Europe to meet with the parallel government’s nascent diplomatic missions in the region.

Also of note from today’s conference: the NUCC guaranteed that decision making bodies must comprise at least 30 percent women. Speakers also noted that the council is looking at ways to include and fund armed resistance groups and PDFs that are not currently under the command of the NUG.