First constitutional rights claim in Myanmar/Burma?

According to The Myanmar Times,  Daw Kyi Htay, professor and head of the Department of Economics at Yangon Distance University, is challenging her dismissal before the Myanmar Supreme Court. What makes the case so interesting is that she claims her dismissal was unconstitutional. Under § 41 of the Civil Servants Law, the Ministry of Education has the right to dismiss teachers without a formal enquiry. Daw Kyi Htay claims this violates the constitutional “right of defence in accord with the law” (§ 375).

 

Two points stick out to me. First, the case was filed at the Supreme Court, not referred to the Constitutional Tribunal. It’s not immediately clear to me how the Court has jurisdiction over the case, unless Daw Kyi Htay is using a constitutional writ (the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over writs). Either way, this is the first constitutional petition I have heard of filed by a citizen and not a government body.

 

Second, Daw Kyi Htay is making a fairly novel legal claim. On its face, § 375 of the 2008 Constitution seems to refer to criminal trials (especially because the right applies to an “accused”). However, this claim is not without precedent; it resembles the substantive due process claims popular in the United States during the 1970s that government workers had a property interest in their jobs and could not be dismissed without formal proceedings.

 

It will be interesting to see how this case turns out, especially if the Supreme Court does end up interpreting the Constitution (or referring the case to the Tribunal). If Daw Kyi Htay wins, it could also set a power precedent and lead to more constitutional rights litigation.

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