A test for Myanmar’s courts?

According to DVB, a group of farmers in Mingalardon Township is filing a lawsuit against USDP MP Khin Shwe. Khin Shwe was a business tycoon before entering the Hluttaw. The farmers accuse him of conspiring with local officials to seize 815 acres of land. The farmers were forced off their land in April 2010 and are now seeking compensation.

Just a year ago, a lawsuit like this would have been thought a hopeless cause. Now though, as Naypyitaw introduces radical changes to other areas of political life, this case could be a key test. So far, the reforms have not actually threatened to introduce accountability into the political system. Moreover, the judiciary has been a weak link in the reform process. I have yet to see any judicial reform program or serious move to guarantee judicial independence. If the courts provide the villagers with some relief – or even take the case seriously – it might indicate that judges received a signal that they can and should rule independently. Unlikely perhaps, but so was the thought of Aung San Suu Kyi in parliament just a year ago.

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