Well, from a certain point of view. According to The Irrawaddy, Speaker Thura Shwe Mann has announced that he supports changing § 59F of the 2008 Constitution to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to be a candidate for president. Oddly enough, Shwe Mann himself also wants that job. Could this be an attempt by Shwe Mann to keep his hands clean in case the constitutional reforms do not allow his greatest potential challenger to complete in 2015?
Category Archives: Burma
According to Eleven news, Thura Aung Ko, chairman of the Pyithu Hluttaw’s Legislative and Judicial Affairs Committee, is preparing to submit a bill that would open courts to video and audio monitoring. The move is designed to allow media to report more effectively on trials and combat corruption. As noted before on Rule by Hukum, Stefan Voigt’s research suggests that the quality of media supervision over the judiciary does indeed reduce judicial corruption. The bill could also increase public trust in the judiciary if it appears most cases are not decided on corrupt grounds.
There are of course concerns whenever cameras are introduced into the courtroom. First, there might be legitimate concerns with exposing court trials to the public, such as the risk that classified or privileged information might be revealed. Knowing Burmese law, it seems safe to say that there will be an exception for “public safety” or “public order” that can accommodate these exceptions.
Second, there is a risk that judges will “play to the camera.” To some extent, this might just make judges more flamboyant or dramatic (think of Judge Judy on American television). However, there is also a risk that, if cameras are used to grade judges in the court of public opinion, judges will feel compelled to respond to popular criticism in their handling of cases. Benjamin Liebman has noted that Chinese judges have become very susceptible to public opinion especially because the Communist Party grades judges on how well they manage to keep the peace within their jurisdiction. As such, if this bill passes, it will be important to explain what impact, if any, public perceptions will have on judicial promotions and tenure.
Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission has just published a website. The site is quite sophisticated and contains a lot of information. Well worth checking out.
There’s been a lot of news about judicial reform in Myanmar/Burma. Last month, the U.S. Agency for International Development issued a request for proposals on a rule of law project in Burma. Even more exciting, more and more lawyers in Myanmar are taking part in the reform process. Since 2010, lawyers have established legal aid networks to help indigent clients. They are now turning their attention to broader systematic reform of the judiciary. Lawyers are increasingly organizing conferences about judicial reform, such as this one reported in Mizzima. As noted by Prof. Melissa Crouch, Yangon University law schools has also become more open to engaging with foreign donors and universities. Hopefully these are signs that any legal reform process will be owned by local stakeholders and not driven by foreign donors.
Unfortunately, I have been too busy over the past month to discuss developments in Southeast Asia, but the region hasn’t stood still. Here’s a roundup of recent news:
- Former Mahkamah Konstitusi chief justice Mahfud MD has declared that he would not participate in the Democrat Party primary. He expressed his concern that the results of the primary would not be respected (source: Jakarta Globe).
- The Hluttaw has convened a joint committee to review and propose amendments to the 2008 Constitution (source: New Mandala). It expects its report to go to the floor by the end of this year (source: Eleven Myanmar). While the review process is generally going to be closed, the NLD has been campaigning to make the process more open to the public (source: Eleven Myanmar). Meanwhile, Speaker Shwe Mann has sent mixed signals, suggesting that he would consider changes to the eligibility requirements of presidential candidates but would not bow to outside pressure (source: Myanmar Times). By contrast, Shwe Mann recently announced his support for federalism while speaking in Shan State (source: DVB). Federalism of course had until recently been considered anathema by senior military leaders.
- The Hluttaw is also considering an amendment to the bill on writs. According to Legal Affairs Committee chairman Thura Aung Ko, currently decisions on writs are often decided only by a single justice, which leaves petitioners at the mercy of individual justices. The amendment would require cases to be decided by a bench (source: Myanmar Times). Melissa Crouch has an article about the history of writs in Myanmar (source: I-CONnect).