Skip to main content

Constitutional Change in Myanmar

Constitutional Change in Myanmar: The Role of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes

Seminar date: Tuesday 6 October 2015
Time: 1-2pm
To register and for more information see here.

Seminar abstract: National elections are due to be held in Myanmar in November 2015. This follows in the wake of several years of significant political reforms. The transition since 2011 from complete military rule to a quasi-civilian government has taken place within the framework of the Constitution of 2008. Yet this intensive period of legal reform has not seen major changes to the role and structure of the judiciary. This raises the issue of the future role of the courts in contributing to constitutional and democratic change in Myanmar

Union Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal, 2013

One shift that has taken place is the reintroduction of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to hear cases from citizens to challenge administrative decisions. In this seminar, I focus on the constitutional writs, as set out in the Constitution of 2008, and its potential as an avenue for citizens to bring cases against government officials to the courts. I question whether the Constitution, as a document drafted over a period of 20 years in a process controlled and directed by the military regime, can take on new meanings and significance for its citizens. To address this, I examine the development and foundation of constitutional writs in Myanmar during the period of parliamentary democracy (1948-1962), identify its common law foundations and the emphasis on the protection of individual rights. I then turn to the implications of the reintroduction in 2011 of the constitutional writs, after decades of socialist and then military rule. Several hundred writ applications have been lodged with the Supreme Court in the past five years, yet few cases have actually been decided on issues of rights protected in the Constitution. Through this presentation, I demonstrate that administrative law is one test of the progress, nature and shape of constitutionalism in authoritarian regimes. The Supreme Court primarily acts to keep the lower courts, rather than the executive, in line; yet there remains potential for the Court to build constitutionalism through writs applications in the future.

Popular posts from this blog

The impact of Covid-19 on research

Covid-19 is currently disrupting academic publishing in a number of ways. 
There are disruptions to the global supply chain for the manufacture and distribution of printed journals. The following publishers have halted journal printing until further notice: Cambridge University Press (from 25 March 2020) Taylor & Francis (from 10 April)
Some journal editors or editing boards have suspended or delayed the review or publication process for academic journals. 
On the other hand, some publishers are providing open access content for a limited period of time. See the following links from the UNSW library and the ANU library, or select publishers websites such as OUP.  The University of California Press has opened free access to all its journals until the end of June 2020
Hart Publishing is currently offering free access for libraries to its online platform, Bloomsbury Collections, until the end of May. To enable access for your institution, email Hart atOnlineSalesUK@bloomsbury.com

The Austral…

Professional Legal Education in Commercial and Corporate Law in Myanmar

Dr Melissa Crouch and Associate Professor Lisa Toohey of UNSW Law Faculty are undertaking a Professional Legal Education Project in Commercial and Corporate law in Myanmar (2016-2017), funded by the Asian Development Bank. Melissa Crouch is the Team leader and Legal Education and Myanmar Law expert. Lisa Toohey is the Legal Education and Commercial Law expert on the project. Emma Dunlop is the Legal Researcher and Project administrator.

The focus of the project is on improving legal education and skills integral to the transactional practice and adjudication of commercial law, at this critical time in Myanmar's transition to democracy. The project includes developing a training program for the practical legal training needs of private lawyers, government lawyers, prosecutors and judges in commercial and financial law. 


In 2016, the first stage of the project has included meetings and focus group discussions with most of the major law firms - foreign and local - in Yangon. It has als…

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. 
Efforts must als…