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TIMELINE - Myanmar's slow road to a new constitution

(Reuters) - Myanmar’s military government will hold a referendum on a new constitution in May this year followed by multi-party elections in 2010, the first in two decades, state television announced on Saturday.

Here is a chronology tracing the former Burma’s contentious constitutional affairs since its independence.


- July 19, 1947 - General Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father and the architect of Burma’s independence from Britain, is assassinated in Yangon along with six members of his pre-independence cabinet.

- Jan 4, 1948: The Union of Burma declares independence. A new charter establishes a bicameral parliament.

- March 1962: General Ne Win launches a military coup. He discards the constitution and establishes a Revolutionary Council of military leaders who rule by decree.

- March 1974: A new constitution transfers power from the armed forces to a People’s Assembly of former military leaders headed by Ne Win. It allows for a unicameral legislature and one legal political party. Ne Win is installed as President.

- 1988: Ne Win resigns as decades of economic strife and ethnic tensions boil over into anti-government riots. The military takes direct power under the name the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and annuls the constitution.

- June 19, 1989: The military government changes the official name of the country from Burma to the Union of Myanmar.

- May 27, 1990: The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi wins 392 of 485 seats in the first multi-party general election since 1960.

- June 19, 1990: SLORC chief Saw Maung rules out a quick transfer of power, saying a new constitution is needed first.

- Oct 14, 1991: NLD leader Suu Kyi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, while under house arrest.

- 1992: General Than Shwe becomes head of the junta and prime minister. Plans for a new constitution are announced.

- Jan 11, 1993: A National Convention on a new constitution is abruptly adjourned, after delegates oppose a clause stating the military must have the leading political role.

- Nov 28, 1995: Convention reconvenes. NLD pulls out, saying the process does not represent the will of the people.

- June 4, 1996: The government hints the NLD may be outlawed, Suu Kyi says her party plans to draft a separate constitution.

- June 7, 1996: A new law declares the unauthorized drafting of a constitution is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

- July 29, 1997: Myanmar’s foreign minister says a new constitution is being finalised, a week after the country joins the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

- Nov 15, 1997: SLORC changes its name to the State Peace and Development Council. The 19-member SPDC includes former SLORC chairman Than Shwe and intelligence chief Khin Nyunt.

- Aug 30, 2003: New Prime Minister Khin Nyunt announces a 7-step “roadmap to democracy”, but gives no firm timetable.

- May 17, 2004: National Convention reconvenes without the NLD, which boycotts talks while Suu Kyi is under house arrest. Convention adjourns in July for a seven-month monsoon break.

- Feb 17, 2005: Convention resumes with Suu Kyi still under house arrest. Talks end in January 2006 with no clear progress.

- Oct 10, 2006: Talks resume, NLD boycotts, talks adjourn in late December.

- July 18, 2007: Convention reopens for the last time.

- September 3, 2007: Convention completes work after 14 years working out the broad outline of a “disciplined” democracy.

- Oct 18, 2007: Junta appoints 54-member commission, mostly military officers and civil servants, to draft constitution.

- Aug-Sept, 2007: A sharp rise in fuel prices sparks the biggest protests in 20 years. Monk-led demonstrations are crushed by soldiers in late September, killing at least 31 people and sparking international outrage and sanctions against the regime.

- Feb 9, 2008: Junta announces referendum on new constitution in May, followed by multi-party elections in 2010. Critics call it a sham aimed at deflecting international pressure.

Sources: Reuters, Columbia Encyclopedia