I've been reading quite a bit recently about the various Burmese constitutions (1947, 1974, and 2008). However, I almost missed the democracy movement's alternative constitution-drafting process. David C. Williams, Professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law and head of the Center for Constitutional Democracy, has been working with ethnic minority groups and pro-democracy leaders for over a decade in order to help them draft alternative constitutions. As anybody who follows Burma knows, the Burmese military would never accept such documents. Indeed, as Williams acknowledges, these "constitutions" will never become legally binding documents. So why should Burmese politicians go through such constitutional exercises?
According to Williams, there have been four distinct phases in the Burmese democratic opposition's constitutionalism. In the early 1990s, the National Coalition of the Union of Burma drafted a national, democratic constitution. However, many of the ethnic minority groups saw this draft as too Burman (as well as dominated by the Burma Lawyer's Council). After this debacle, several groups began to draft their own state constitutions (which is when Williams and the CCD began their involvement). These ventures have varied widely in both form and substance, but have generally included some form of popular consultation and transparency.