Reinstating Lawyers

In news somewhat related to my last post, the Democratic Voice of Burma reports that several Burmese lawyers who had been disbarred for political reasons are now seeking reinstatement to the bar. The article claims that over 20 lawyers had their licenses revoked since the SPDC came to power in 1988. Aung Thein, a lawyer affiliated with the National League for Democracy, argued, “These lawyers were given prison sentences on political grounds have also lost their licenses – so it’s like we got two separate punishments in just one case.”

On the one hand, it’s certainly not uncommon for lawyers in other countries to lose their licenses upon being convicted of a crime that reflects upon their moral bearings. However, U Aung Thein’s statement makes two points. First, the crimes for which Aung Thein and his colleagues received sentences were political, not moral. If anything, their support for legal rights should speak well to their moral bearings. Second, in Myanmar the government revoked their licenses, rather than a bar association. Moreover, the lawyers did not get a chance to appeal the decision.

Politics aside, the ultimate tragedy may well be that, as one of the disbarred lawyers notes, “[Law] is our career profession – just like teachers. We are not rich people and having lost our lawyers licenses made a lot of difficulties for our survival.”

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