The Future is Federal

April 10th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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While the CRPH-led Federal Charter is a positive first step, a future Federal Constitution must follow a step-by-step process, co-led by ethnic political and civil society actors, and be inclusive of all peoples of Myanmar at all steps of the process,  including a provisional constitution, to be agreed upon by a convention with all relevant stakeholders, before forming a national government, in order to address the root causes of the conflict and military rule.

The idea of a federal future for Myanmar upon the success of the revolution is gaining more traction. Long advocated for by ethnic groups as a durable solution to the problems of the Myanmar nation-state and military rule, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) has produced a federal charter and announced the abolishment of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Meanwhile, more ethnic armed organizations, general strike committees and civil society organizations are collaborating with the CRPH and offering their support to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).

The problems with the 2008 Constitution are well documented and images of demonstrators burning copies on the streets after the CRPH announced its abolishment are most welcome. Drafted by the Myanmar military and promulgated after a sham referendum, it centralizes political power, ensures that the military holds three of the most important ministries – Border Affairs, Home Affairs, and Defense – and that serving military personnel are allocated 25% Parliamentary seats. The 25% designation in Parliament was an effective veto for constitutional change, which necessitated a vote of over 75% in Parliament. While the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) party opted to work largely within the confines of this Constitution, ethnic groups, including ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and civil society have consistently referred to the Constitution as a stumbling block for any meaningful reforms towards the establishment of a federal democracy.

With the announcement of a federal charter by the CRPH, which represents 76% of the MPs elected in the 2020 elections that the military is attempting to override with its February 1st coup, and the declaration that the 2008 Constitution is null and void, there is hope for a more inclusive future. Rather than a return to a status quo of Bamar elite-led politics, however, in which a merry dance between the NLD and the military waltzed the country through genocide, a failed peace process and marginalization of religious and ethnic minorities, there is momentum for new system of governance that is not only based on federalism and ethnic equality, but one that recognizes Rohingya as a part of a Myanmar nation, embraces inclusivity, and protects the rights of all peoples. While the CRPH-led Federal Charter is a positive first step, a future Federal Constitution must follow a step-by-step process, co-led by ethnic political and civil society actors, and be inclusive of all peoples of Myanmar at all steps of the process,  including a provisional constitution, to be agreed upon by a convention with all relevant stakeholders, before forming a national government, in order to address the root causes of the conflict and military rule.

An alliance between the Nobel-Peace prize nominated CDM and ethnic groups will be key to the success of the revolution. In fact, one of the key actors of the resistance, the General Strike Committee – Nationalities has urged EAOs to protect unarmed civilians, while several EAOs, including the Karen National Union (KNU), the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which comprises the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Peace Process Steering Team which includes signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, have condemned the military regime and vowed to work against the junta. The military junta knows the dangers of a multi-ethnic alliance that also includes the CDM resistance currently on the streets of towns and cities across Myanmar, and has launched brutal military offensives in ethnic areas, aiming to stymie any efforts by EAOs to seize this moment while continuing its nationwide violent attack against civilians in urban and rural areas across the country. Last month it launched airstrikes against KIA positions, while in KNU areas, northern Karen State, airstrikes have been continuously launched since March 27, displacing 20,000 people internally and causing several thousand to attempt to cross the border with Thailand. Dozens of Karen villagers have died as a result, including children.

The KNU has always been one of the most politically important EAOs, and has been providing support and sanctuary for members of the CDM, political entities, civil society actors and activists, not hesitating to provide shelter and humanitarian aid. Not only should Thailand allow refugees to cross over from Karen territory, but also allow international humanitarian organizations and local service providers to work without restriction. International humanitarian organizations must provide aid to these groups, including the provision of cross-border aid which diminished in recent years amid the false promises of Myanmar’s ‘democratic’ transition. Local CBOs and political actors in ethnic areas already have their resources stretched as they resist the Myanmar military and help those displaced from the brutal airstrikes, as well as continue their support to existing IDP camps and populations in need due to decades of Myanmar military brutality. They cannot keep relying on individual donations, and as the international community remains paralyzed in terms of concerted action, cross-border humanitarian support is a concrete way to help the victims of the military junta’s awful violence.

The Myanmar military is only scaling up its violence in order to take complete control of the whole country, fearing the unprecedented unity of opposition to military rule. The violent dispersal of protests, the continuation of arbitrary arrests and the use of lethal force, demonstrates that the military has no intention of backing down, while the latest internet restrictions are further blocking information coming out of the country, (the self-serving, egotistical CNN trip aside). Cooperation between ethnic actors, the CDM and the General Strike Committees, supported by the efforts of campaigners and advocates from outside Myanmar and around the world, including efforts to impose targeted sanctions, will bring down the military regime. It will force them to fight on multiple fronts, all the while delegitimize them. This cooperation also provides an opportunity to rewrite Myanmar’s history, and constitute a nation that is organized around equality, justice and accountability, devolved power, and inclusive of the country’s myriad ethnic and religious groups. A federal future awaits.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

INGOs Call for an End to Violence Against Civilians Including Children and Warn of Imminent Humanitarian Crisis

By 41 INGOs working in Myanmar

STATEMENT by  56 Thai organizations calls on the Thai government to make every effort to stop violence in Myanmar

By 56 Thai Organizations

Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw: Burma/Myanmar’s legitimate government until parliament resumes


Asia Pacific Network of Refugees calls for swift action to protect refugees and IDPs and prevent further displacement from Myanmar

By Asia Pacific Network of Refugees

UN Security Council Barriers are no Excuse for International Inaction on Myanmar

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

ဖက်ဒရယ်ဒီမိုကရေစီပဋိညာဥ် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေ (၂၀၀၈ ခုနှစ်) ကို အပြီးသတ် ဖျက်သိမ်းကြောင်း ကြေညာခြင်း။

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

ညီနောင်မဟာမိတ် (၃)ဖွဲ့၏ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက်ကို CRPH ကြိုဆို

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Call for Comprehensive Economic Sanctions including MOGE

By Federation of General Workers Myanmar

Children Killed and Wounded by Daily Airstrikes from Burma Military, 12,000 People now Displaced in Karen State

By Free Burma Rangers

International pressure grows as Myanmar’s generals commit crimes against humanity

By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Myanmar: Hundreds Forcibly Disappeared

By Human Rights Watch

Statement on condemning the brutality of the Myanmar military, solidarity with the resistance of the people of Myanmar to preserve the dignity of being alive

By International Child Rights Center

Myanmar: IFRC calls for greater protection of health workers and warns of a deepening humanitarian crisis

By International Federation of Red Cross

Pressure builds on Adani Ports investors as new report reveals Adani Ports paid tens of millions to Myanmar military company. Human rights groups call on Adani Ports’ investors to divest

By Justice For Myanmar

Two Dutch pension funds invest US$2.3 billion in companies linked to the Myanmar military’s atrocities

By Justice For Myanmar

Port of Complicity: Adani in Myanmar

By Justice For Myanmar

Karen Human Rights Group Condemns the State Administration Council’s Targeted Attacks on Civilian Populations

By Karen Human Rights Group

A Communique of Mutraw District/5th Brigade to the Public Regarding the Ongoing Use of Deadly Airstrikes Against Karen Civilians by the Violent Burmese military

By Karen National Union

Amid deadly crackdowns on urban protests, regime’s troops commit fresh war crimes in northern Burma

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

CRPH က ထုတ်ပြန်ရန်ရှိသော ဖက်ဒရယ်ဒီမိုကရေစီပဋိညာဥ်အပေါ် သုံးသပ်ချက်စာတမ်း

By Legal Aid Network

LI Bureau calls for end to violence in Myanmar; Urges ASEAN to act

By Liberal International

Press release on the Burmese military dictatorship’s airstrikes on villages in the Salween Peace Park on 27th–28th, March 2021

By Salween Peace Park and Karen Peace Support Network

Salween Peace Park Press Release

By Salween Peace Park

Salween Peace Park Under Attack: Burmese military violence undermines Indigenous Karen conservation for peace

By Salween Peace Park

Myanmar: 43 children killed by armed forces in just two months since the coup began

By Save the Children

6,000 IDPs on southern Shan State-Thai border under grave threat of Burma Army attack

By Shan State Refugee Committee (Thai Border)

Statement on the ongoing internal conflicts in Myanmar after the military coup

By Three Brotherhood Alliance

UK announces further sanctions on Myanmar military-linked companies

By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)

News comment: UNHCR calls on Myanmar’s neighbours to protect people fleeing violence


NEWS RELEASE – UN Human Rights Office urges suspension of returns to Myanmar

By UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia

N Security Council press statements on Myanmar

By UN Security Council

USTR Suspends Trade Engagement with Burma following Military Coup and Violence against Civilians

By United States Trade Representative

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”