Burmese Officials Look to Madison for Constitutional Reform Process


On December 3 and 4, the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution will host eight Burmese Parliament members and consultants for a two-day training on federalism and constitutional amendment processes. The Burmese Parliament is expected to take up significant reforms of its 2008 constitution in 2014.

The training will be conducted by Dr. David S. Law, Professor of Law and Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. The participants are key players in Burma’s constitutional reform process and are visiting the United States for a multi-week study trip sponsored by the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. The program is administered by the International Institute Graduate School USA.

The program objectives for the delegation include:
· Examining the role of an independent judiciary in a democratic society and establishing respect for the rule of law among civil society;
· Exploring the field of constitutional law and methods to amend constitutions and laws to adapt to recent political, economic, and other developments;
· Taking a comparative view of the role of military-civilian relations in different countries;
· Gaining an understanding of how to protect the rights of minority and ethnic groups; and
· Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the federal system of government and the power and jurisdictions of local, state, and federal government in the United States.

During the Montpelier portion of the program, the group will focus on the foundations of representative democracy, federalism, and factionalism in Burma, political trends across Asia, and best practices in the amendment process. Professor Law’s interdisciplinary scholarship on global constitutionalism, constitutional adjudication, and judicial decision-making will serve as a sounding board for the discussion.

"The core ideas of American constitutionalism were championed by James Madison. We are deeply honored to have leaders from Burma at Montpelier, Madison's life-long home. We wish them the best in their democratic pursuits and are grateful for our chance to share tenants of constitution building,” said Kat Imhoff, President and CEO of The Montpelier Foundation.

Among the participants are representatives from the Unity and Democracy Party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, the All Nationals’ Democracy Party, and National League for Democracy Party.

Professor Law, who Montpelier has engaged as the lead scholar for the training, has a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and a degree in European and comparative law from the University of Oxford. A native of Canada, he has served as a visiting professor at the National Taiwan University College of Law, Seoul National University School of Law, and Keio University Faculty of Law in Tokyo. 


Caroline Godfrey