Last year’s survey of 1,907 respondents discovered that the people of Shan State still prefer a powerful president than a prime minister who can do nothing unless his / her coalition partners agree, according to a recent report by the Shan State Constitution Drafting Commission (SSCDC) on the results.
1,221 (64%) of them had ticked the “presidential system” slot for Form of Government in contrast to 660 (34.6%) for “prime minister system”. Only 25 (1.4%) were undecided.
One of the respondents in Shan State North explained, “That doesn’t mean we would like an all powerful president who can do whatever he / she likes. But we think a prime minister is merely a wimp, if you take (Thailand’s current prime minister) Abhisit Vejjajiva as an example.”
When SHAN reminded him of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was prime minister (2001-2006) and was noted as a powerful one, he retorted, “Was he? If he was, where is he now?”
Tycoon Thaksin has been living in exile since the military coup that toppled him in 2006.
According to the SSCDC draft, the president is elected by the Upper House, made up of equal number of representatives from the states (the draft uses the term sub-state), while the prime minister is elected by the Lower House, made up of population-based representatives. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the prime minister is the head of government. “There’s a healthy balance of power between the president and the prime minister,” said Hkun Okker, the SSCDC’s legal consultant.
The SSCDC, formed in 2001, under the leadership of the late Sao Sengsuk (1935-2007), has completed 2 drafts, based on the recommendations by law experts and feedback by the populace during its field trips.
The 9 guidelines of the SSCDC laid down by the 2007 conference are:
- A federal structure for Shan State
- A democratic decentralized administrative system
- Sovereign power derives from the people of Shan State
- To be a member state of a genuine federal union with other states
- To guarantee equality among Shan State’s ethnic nationalities
- To guarantee ethnic minority rights
- To guarantee basic human rights and gender equality
- To practice a multi-party democratic system
- To be a secular state
Other response to SSCDC questionnaire includes the following:
Equality among races in Shan State 1,775 (93%)
Bi- cameral system 1,572 (82.4%)
Multi-party system 1,148 (60.2%)
Self determination for member (sub) states 1,260 (66.1%)
Setting up ministry for gender equality 1,291 (67.7%)
If a federal system is instituted in Burma in future, Shan State should join it 1,003 (52.6%)
Armed forces should come under civilian government 1,499 (78.6%)
“The challenge, to paraphrase the late Senator Patrick Moynihan,” said Khuensai Jaiyen, SHAN editor and current president of the SSCDC, “is to make Burma safe for and against ethnicity.”