Courage and Cowardice in the Courtroom
Friday, March 23, 2012


In Burma, it takes real nerve to accuse the military of anything. That's why it came as a surprise to many when the family of a Kachin woman last seen on Oct. 28 filed a lawsuit against soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 321 for her alleged abduction. The husband and father of the missing woman, 28-year-old Sumlut Roi Ja, said that the soldiers arrested all three—supposedly on suspicion of having links to the Kachin Independence Army—but only the two men managed to escape.

When the Union Supreme Court in Naypyidaw agreed in early February to hear the case, it seemed like another breakthrough—not as dramatic, perhaps, as the release of hundreds of political prisoners less than a month earlier, but still a significant development in a country where the military has acted with impunity for decades.

This week, however, it became clear again that Burma's courts are not ready to take on their real masters—the army men who have turned the country's judiciary into a ruthless tool of the state apparatus.

According to various reports, the case against the accused soldiers was summarily dropped after officials from the army’s Northern Regional Military Command testified on their behalf on Feb. 23. The court deemed the testimony of the two Kachin men “insufficient,” but readily accepted the soldiers' denial of any wrongdoing (backed up by the authority of their superior officers) at face value. No investigation has taken place, and the woman remains missing and is presumed dead by her relatives.

It is impossible to believe that the family made the decision to go to court lightly. What makes this case all the more appalling is the claim of the family's lawyers that they were not even informed of the decision to drop the case, which they learned of only this week. This apparent show of disdain for the plaintiffs, coupled with the craven attitude of the court toward the army, is an insult to anyone who believes that judges should be arbiters of justice, and not mere agents of the state.

Next week, a court in Rangoon is scheduled to hear another case—that of the Ministry of Mines against The Voice journal, which stands accused of libel for publishing the findings of a government audit that revealed evidence of rampant corruption within the ministry. The charge is patently absurd: If the ministry wants to dispute the findings, it should take the matter up with the auditor-general, and not a private journal.

The fact that the court has agreed to proceed with the case shows once again the willingness of Burma's judges to bend to the will of higher authorities. Until they begin to show some of the same courage demonstrated by the family of Sumlut Roi Ja, there is little chance that they will be able to redeem themselves and their profession in the eyes of Burmese citizens.

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Lule Wrote:
haha...very true. awesome!! I'm now laughing - laughing at Myanmar's judges. ;)

Zaw Min Wrote:
In the 88 affair, I was one of the revolutionaries and there were many – in fact the majority of the country was. Later, the majority of these revolutionaries and others – including the military, the opposition, ethnic minorities, the middle path people etc – went down the wrong path of a deadlock situation for two decades. It was through the efforts of the few good people who were in the present government, who were in the parliament after getting elected against all odds, the righteous revolutionaries (of which there are only a few) are we in the present situation. I saw the ethnic minority leaders and organizations to be the most far ahead in setting up the stage for the revival and entry of our land (I don’t want to say Burma or Myanmar as this can be decided later) onto the world stage. So please be patient, work together with all that are heading toward the same direction, and try as best as possible to reach it as soon as possible. May God and whoever or whatever can help us help us.

Than Lwin Wrote:
This list will never end. It is an immensely sad thing that all these happened and still happening in no other than our own land called Burma in this era of advanced civilization.

Than Lwin Wrote:
I have to say with great sorrow for my country and my people, all things unimaginable and unthinkable happened under fascist military rule in Burma since half a century ago. Victims go to jail and criminals go scout free (eg., DePeYin massacre), corruption in its most disgusting form was legitimized, almost all of their children become billionaires overnight, injured street demonstrators were cremated alive in Rangoon’s crematoriums to erase evidence, one of absolutely poorest countries in the world spent hundreds of billions to build a capital city at the middle of the jungle in KyatPyay, just because of one mad man, destroying future generations by brainwashing young Burmese boys and instilling fascist principles yet in them to produce more like-minded thugs in a camp call DSA in Maymyo (shamefully inscribing themselves as “TRIUMPHANT ELITES OF FUTURE GENERATIONS” at their camp entrance).

Than Lwin Wrote:
Most of whom Saddam killed were his armed enemies. But almost all of whom this fascist army killed are its own unarmed people:- demostrators, bystanders, odd job labourers, roadside shoppers, farmers, workers, students, monks, pastors, preachers, children, pregnant women in border areas, ethnic states, streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and other Burmese cities, in their own homes, in churches, in mosques, in monasteries and in jails.

Than Lwin Wrote:
This Burmese army is the epicenter of all Burma’s problems, having been genetically conceived in fascism. Former US president, George Bush once famously remarked, “Saddam Hussein killed more Iraqis than anyone else in history”. It is also the fact that this fascist army, who call themselves “Tatmadaw” killed more Burmese people than anyone else in history.

Kyaw Wrote:
Judges should be arbiters of justice, and not mere agents of the Military (not state.)
We Kachin knew that the Judges would end up with such decision. The success is, we had already proved that this Government and the so called Parliament are just the cosmetic tools of the Military machines behind. Without the Absolute Independent judiciary system, it is not a democratic country and democratic Government but a bunch of castrated yes men.

aung Wrote:
A simple thing to say is 'FIRE THOSE PUPPET JUDGES' who afraid of doing their job.

More Articles in This Section

bullet The President's Speech

bullet Burma’s Trust Deficit

bullet Burma’s Much-Awaited News Finally Arrives

bullet A Cruel Clemency

bullet Human Rights in Burma: No Excuse for Delay

bullet Time for Thein Sein to Prove the Skeptics Wrong

bullet Making it Legal

bullet Burma's Forgotten Farmers

bullet One Year Later: Bogus Election Offers Some Hope

bullet Asean Should Bide Its Time on Burma Getting Key Role

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