Burmese Legal System Remains Tool of Govt: AHRC
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Monday, July 15, 2024

Burmese Legal System Remains Tool of Govt: AHRC


Mahabandoola Park with Rangoon's High Court behind. (Photo: onourownpath.com)

A leading human rights group has condemned the politicization of Burma's judiciary just as a widely criticized government lawsuit against a prominent journal has been dropped.

Burma's Ministry of Construction (MoC) launched a defamation action against Modern Weekly journal after an article was published which criticized the state of Mandalay's roads, prompting accusations that this was a new tactic to silence dissenters.

Although the lawsuit has now been dropped, a similar one by the Ministry of Mining remains against The Voice Weekly after the journal printed allegations of graft revealed in a government audit report.

And now the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has voiced concerns about corruption and the politicization of Burma's judiciary—specifically concerning judges accepting bribes and following instructions from the executive arm of government.

“The legacy of judicial corruption is today in the foreground of media and public debate, but the anti-corruption rhetoric that we hear is essentially a continuation of the same type of rhetoric that successive military and military-backed regimes iterated for decades,” said the AHRC.

“Nor are the proposals that have been made in the last year to deal with corruption anything new. Most blame and attention is being placed on judges who take bribes, rather than on the systemic features of corruption.

“While judges are scandalized, the participation of all parties in the legal process in the negotiations and trade in justice—including arresting police, investigating officers, station clerks, court clerks, court brokers, prosecutors, bailiffs, bureaucrats and many others in addition to the judges—and how these people network and negotiate through the offices of the system attracts inadequate attention.”

Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint told The Irrawaddy in an exclusive interview on Monday that fighting rampant corruption is the most important issue facing Burma today, and that existing  legislation is out-of date with proposed amendments due to be submitted to the Union Parliament during the next session.

Pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi also told reporters earlier this month that the Burmese government still restricts media freedom, and cited the case of The Voice Weekly defamation lawsuit as an example of such gagging.

The AHRC report details the case of a 36-year-old taxi driver named Ko Tin Maung Swe who was beaten to death in December 2010. Police arrested four men over the killing and charged them with murder, but then reduced the offenses due to the choice of weapons used in the attack—specifically bats and sticks instead of knives or swords.

Two assailants were accused of “causing grievous hurt” and received  five years imprisonment—two years less than the minimum sentence for this particular offense—while the other two were only charged with “abetment” and got off with time served. The AHRC claims that the presiding judge showed a patent disinterest in proceedings and at times spoke at length on his mobile telephone while witnesses were deposing.

The other case cited by the AHRC concerns Mahn Nyein Maung, a central committee member of the Karen National Union (KNU), who was sentenced to 65 years for belonging to an unlawful association and treason. Guilty verdicts were handed down on March 13 almost immediately after the trial began, but then President Thein Sein quickly issued a pardon and he was released.

While admitting that it may have been “politically expedient” to issue the release in order for Naypyidaw to continue peace negotiations with the KNU, the AHRC criticized the obvious “pantomime” trial and politicizing of the judiciary who knew the pardon was coming and rushed through the case without due process.

“The cases of Tin Maung Swe and Mahn Nyein Maung together speak to two legacies of protracted military authoritarianism on the legal system in Burma—its utter degradation and corruption, its reduction to an apparatus for the trading in justice by its personnel; and, its utter politicization and partisanship, its reduction to an apparatus for delivery of orders from the executive,” said the AHRC.

Meanwhile, a court hearing concerning The Voice Weekly lawsuit set for March 22 has now been postponed.

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Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
Burma legal system is very loose, no credit and not mesh with international standard. Even can imagine that the change of country name into "Myanmar" through the degree and by law passed by parliament, how can you recognize Myanmar name. Think that the country obtain independence under Burma name not Myanmar name. That is why Burma judiucial system is very (very) loose, the authority does not respect the laws.

Ohn Wrote:
In "Pa-du-ma Paung-to", the wife would bend down so that the ex-convict with no hand and leg could punish her for late breakfast by biting her cheeks! And love grows!

Labouring under immense and cruel suppression for long time, the Burmese has this weird (sick) admiration and respect for the convicts, pro-convicts and ex-convicts (read: Than Shwe, Thein Sein, TAMO and all the military thief apparatus along with their thievery friends- Tay Za, Zaw Zaw, Khin Shwe, Htay Myint, Steven Law,etc).

Looking at the way the so-called dissident journalists rushing in and paying obeisance to the plain liars with supreme military backed power, it should be clear that the authoritarian un-law which these guys stipulate is here to eternity. This is after half a century of bloods, tears, countless tortured dead bodies.

E.g If Thein Sein were to grant Aung Zaw now for "exclusive interview" he would not sleep until the resultant "Sky Full of Lies" is in print!

For as we embrace the liars, we embrace the un-law.

KML Wrote:
I doubt is there any "Burmese Legal System". What we have in Burma is junks of British colonial legal system tempered with Gen Ne Win's lunatic " Burmese way to Socialism". I don't think any emphasis given to judiciary in this euphoria of "reform"

Burma needs "independence judiciary" desperately to streamline the so called democratic reform. We normally watch "law of the jungle" in National Geographic but not in any civilised country!!

Oo Mauntg Gyi Wrote:
At present Burma judoicial system is totally corrupted and also a tool of the ruling party.No justice prevail, so it is required to change to become rule of law. How to change is a question? Once constitution can amend then the whole system of the government machinery will have to change to become democratic, at present many areas in the constitution are undemocratic and no equality with Bama ethnic group and other ethnic groups. How can run a country without rule of law, who will trust this sort of country for investment huge amount of money?
It is better for all responsible persons those are in parliament to know that without change there can not sanction be lifted too.

Tom Tun Wrote:
Are we remember that the government today are still the government from yesterday. Do we know what are they after? We already know they are after for legitimacy for their holding of power in Burma. If legal system and culture of corruption isn't changing, will the world recognize this Thein Sein government as credibal legitimate government? They may say it takes time to change, but change only in words without any action isn't acceptable.

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