A New Look at Federalism in Myanmar

Author: Ashley South

Myanmar is facing three extraordinary ‘triple stress’ crises: the Covid pandemic, the February 1st 2021 coup, and climate change (the full impacts of which have yet to be felt). At this critical juncture, it is worth re-visiting and re-imagining the type of country it could be.

Federalism has long been considered an important tool for resolving Myanmar’s protracted state-society and centre-periphery conflicts and achieving self-determination for ethnic nationality communities. Federalism is a possible means to an end: in the case of Myanmar, enabling self-determination and justice in the context of protracted armed conflicts

There are already existing and effective forms of sub-state governance in Myanmar, which require creative support from donors, particularly given the coup and illegitimacy of the State Administrative Council regime.

Federalism in Myanmar has often been discussed in terms of the need to revise or replace the 2008 constitution, usually in a top-down (‘blueprint style’) manner. This report takes a ‘bottom up’ approach, exploring how forms of ‘federal practice’ already exist, and could be better acknowledged and supported. Myanmar needs Federal Democracy, based on recognition of existing governance administration systems at the state level.

Myanmar could be an important case study, or pilot for recognising Ethnic Armed Organisations’ and Resistance Organisations’ (ERO/EAO) legitimate authority.