Category Archives: lawyers

Asia Foundation Photo Blog: Legal Aid Delivers Justice in Indonesia

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May 9, 2014 · 23:12

Allen & Overy in Myanmar

Western firms are increasingly interested in investing in Myanmar, and so are Western law firms. The Lawyer is a brief writeup of Allen & Overy’s increasing presence in the country

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Filed under Burma, lawyers, legal profession, Myanmar

Glass half full or empty for lawyers? (Myanmar/Burma)

The International Commission of Jurists has released a new report about the state of the legal profession in Myanmar. The Irrawaddy provides a nice summary of the report and its key findings. I won’t bother resummarizing the report here, but I do think it worth commenting on a few aspects.

Most of the challenges mentioned in the report are quite similar to those faced by lawyers under military rule (as discussed in Nic Cheesman’s dissertation). In other words, recent political reforms have not necessarily changed the type of problems lawyers face, but has affected the degree to which those problems hinder the work of lawyers. For example, while ICJ still reports instances of government agents harassing human rights lawyers, lawyers do seem to agree that the room for them to operate has expanded considerably.

It is also interesting that reform of the Bar Council has emerged as a key demand. During the era of military rule, the Bar Council seemed to play a relatively minor role and evinced few complaints. Of course, this partly reflects the fact that lawyers can now openly advocate for institutional reform. However, even in private interviews, lawyers often expressed disappointment with the Bar Council or dismissed it as a tool of the government, but seldom pointed to it as one of the most important barriers the legal profession faced.

In a sense, I suspect the focus on the Bar Council reflects the legal profession’s increased interest in mobilizing on behalf of causes. Aside from lawyers associated with the National League for Democracy and other political parties, the legal profession remained relatively unpoliticized before 2011. Few lawyers mobilized on behalf of cause lawyering. Since 2011, more lawyers have participated in legal aid clinics and have protested government legal aid policies. It seems lawyers view Bar Council reform as the next logical step in ensuring that they can mobilize without undue government influence.

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Filed under Burma, International Commission of Jurists, lawyers, legal profession, Myanmar

Red handed! (Indonesia)

Don’t get caught…

The first rule of corruption is not to get caught. The star of Indonesia’s latest corruption scandal violated that primary rule. According to The Jakarta Globe, superlawyer Hotma Sitompul was caught handing Rp 100 million ($9,700) to a Supreme Court official. The bribe was allegedly in connection to the prosecution of police general Djoko Susilo.

I’m sure there will be a lot of commentary over the next few weeks expressing outrage. Much of that outrage is well deserved. However, it’s also important to take a moment and remember that many – if not most – Indonesian lawyers are not corrupt. I have met many lawyers who are embarrassed by these sorts of corruption scandals. Some of them have even sacrificed professional opportunities in order to avoid the taint of corruption. So, in the midst of outrage, it’s also important to remember those lawyers who fight the small, constant battles everyday to improve the country’s legal system.

UPDATE (7/30/13): Jakarta Globe has posted more details of the scandal, including reactions from the bar association (Peradi).

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As I become a member of the bar, Burma’s lawyers return to the bar (Myanmar/Burma)

On Friday November 9, I was sworn in to the New York State Bar Association. It was the culmination of long years of study, tuition money, and procrastination. I’m not a practicing lawyer, so the symbolically the moment meant very little to me. But I was relieved to see that more disbarred lawyers in Myanmar are being reinstated. According to Irrawaddy, U Aung Thien, one of the NLD’s most prominent lawyers, was reinstated. At least 13 of the 24 other disbarred lawyers have also received their licenses, although Pho Phyu, an activist lawyer working on behalf of dispossessed farmers, has not. This is certainly a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping the government keeps to it.

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Filed under Burma, ethics, lawyers, Myanmar