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Showing posts from November, 2014

Reality check on Islam, Buddhism in Myanmar

Reality check on Islam, Buddhism in Myanmar The West has been wondering what has gone wrong with Buddhism in Myanmar since 2012 and the violence primarily by Buddhists against Muslims. Yet I want to suggest that this is the wrong question, and that the West needs to take a look in the mirror. The West’s skewed view of Buddhism as a ‘peaceful’ religion, combined with the stereotypical view of Islam as inherently ‘violent’, are a core part of the problem. Over the past month several reports and a barrage of media reports have surfaced in an attempt to explain the violence against Muslims in Myanmar. Yet implicitly such reports often promote the ‘real’ teachings of Buddhism as a ‘peaceful’ religion, and this adds to the Western stereotype of Islam as somehow ‘violent’. Let me illustrate this by taking a different perspective to some of the issued raised by Contesting Buddhist Narratives . This report priorities understanding Buddhist fears and concerns, represented in the ir

Writs but no Weapons? Administrative Justice in Myanmar

Writs but no Weapons? A Stocktake on Administrative Justice in Myanmar The former Chief Justice Ba U of the Supreme Court of Burma once described the constitutional writs as ‘weapons’. The early years of independence in Burma were a time of significant judicial activism, when the Supreme Court did not hesitate to strike down executive decisions that were beyond the powers of decision-makers or that infringed on the rights of citizens. It also did not hesitate to grant applications for habeas corpus in situations of unlawful detention. A year ago, I wrote about the striking developments that had taken place in terms of the constitutional writs in Myanmar, a country in which citizens had virtually no opportunities to bring complaints against the government to court from the 1970s to 2011. A significant number of cases continue to be lodged with the Union Supreme Court of Myanmar, and over 500 applications have been lodge since 2011. This means that there have been far more

Socio-legal Scholarship on Southeast Asia

The Asian Journal of Comparative Law is about to publish a special edition on Socio-legal Scholarship on Southeast Asia . This special issue is the result of a workshop held in 2012 on Socio-legal Research on Southeast Asia: Themes, Directions, and Challenges, organised by Lynette J. Chua and Andrew Harding at the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, NUS, Singapore.  As the first in a series of academic gatherings planned to advance socio-legal research on Southeast Asia, the workshop brought together leading scholars in the field and researchers from the region. Its goals were to foster an academic community, articulate potential research directions, and thus provide the bases for subsequent conferences and projects that engage the broader field of socio-legal studies while giving voice to Southeast Asian perspectives and experiences. See below for the articles included in the edition:  Socio-legal Scholarship on Southeast Asia: Themes and Directions Guest Editors:

Myanmar's Muslim Mosaic and the Politics of Belonging

Note: This talk was given at the  Southeast Asian Human Rights Network  Conference on 15-16 October 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One of the co-panelists, Pak Ulil Abshar Abdullah who is well-known as a proponent of liberal Islam, was  banned from entering Malaysia , but was able to give his presentation via skype. On the same day, the Malaysian Bar Council conducted a peaceful protest in support of law professor Azmi Sharom (one of the organisers of the conference), to  protest against the sedition charges  he faces. A video recording of the session will appear on  Libertv  shortly. Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to be here. The Southeast Asian Human Rights Network is an incredibly important initiative that brings together both advocates and scholars to discuss pressing issues in the region. I think it can set an agenda for future research in terms of the key human rights concerns that affect the region. In setting this agenda, one of the most important choi

Access to Justice and Administrative Law in Myanmar

Administrative law is an important part of access to justice because it can operate as a check and balance on government decision-making, and provide an avenue for individuals to seek review of government decisions. In a report sponsored by USAID and TetraTech for their 'Promoting the Rule of Law in Myanmar' program, I emphasise the importance of administrative law in Myanmar in promoting good governance, accountability and checks on executive power.  The main avenue for judicial review of administrative action in Myanmar is the constitutional writs under the 2008 Constitution. Since 2011, a large number of applications for the constitutional writs have been brought to the Supreme Court. The Writ Procedure Law 2014 was introduced to clarify the Supreme Court procedure for handling writ cases. The constitutional writs are a new area of law and support needs to be provided to a range of legal actors in order to take hold of the potential opportunity this provides.  Ef