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Showing posts from August, 2015

Talk: Constitutional Reform in Authoritarian Regimes

Next week I will be speaking at the  Law Faculty,  University of Otago, New Zealand, on ' Constitutional Reform in Authoritarian Regimes: Writs as Weapons in Myanmar? ’ The role and function of constitutions in authoritarian regimes has always been something of an anomaly for scholars. Yet a new body of scholarship has emerged in an effort to explore and explain the role that constitutions can and do play in authoritarian regimes. In Myanmar, the transition from complete military rule to a quasi-civilian government has taken place within the framework of the Constitution of 2008. The case of Myanmar therefore provides a relevant site from which to explore questions about the significance of constitutional change in authoritarian regimes. In this presentation I will focus on one particular aspect of the Myanmar Constitution 2008: the reintroduction of the right of individuals to bring applications for constitutional writs to the Union Supreme Court. I explore the meaning of th

Law and Conflict in Myanmar

Legal and constitutional reform often occurs at moments of political conflict, crisis and change. This is the case in Myanmar today. The general assumption is that law has not played a significant role in Myanmar in the past,  but  that in the post-2011 transition from military to semi-civilian rule, law can and will take on a more important role in its contribution to the reform process. This assumes law will help, and not hinder. However, in Myanmar, while law has at times been used to manage and avoid conflict, it can also exacerbate it. This is evident when looking at three areas of legal reform between 2010 and 2015: structural, economic and social reforms. Structural reforms established the country’s new constitutional and legal system. Many of these laws were intended to avoid conflict between institutions, primarily by giving the President and the executive significant control, including over the courts. And while many offices and institutions may sound new, they are

Constitutional Writs and Human Rights Workshop

On 8-9 August 2015, I participated in a workshop on the 'Constitutional Writs and Human Rights' in Yangon, Myanmar. The workshop was organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Public Legal Aid Network (PLAN) Myanmar.  The workshop was attended by a wide range of participants from across Myanmar, many of whom were lawyers while others were members of parliament, civil society activists and former judges.  The workshop was an important forum to discuss strategies for constitutional writ cases as an avenue to review government decisions, and the potential for such cases to protect rights under the Myanmar Constitution 2008. It included discussion of the current challenges and opportunities for constitutional writ cases in the Supreme Court, which has been part of the court's jurisdiction since 2011.