Skip to main content

States of Denial: How the Rohingya Lost the Right to Vote


 This coming Friday I will speak at Northwestern's Buffet Institute for Global Studies in Evanston on 'States of Interpretive Denial in Myanmar'.



Abstract of the talk: The international community celebrated the 2015 Myanmar elections and the success of the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi. It was even more remarkable that the NLD was then allowed to take power, given the history of the NLD being denied the right to form a government after the 1990 elections. Yet this was only part of the story. The global community by and large missed the legal act of excluding the Rohingya from the political community through disenfranchisement. This act of interpretive denial was executed by parliament, the courts and the administration through the deliberate denial of the right to vote or run for political office for those who held temporary identity cards. Building on Cohen’s theory of States of Denial, I examine ways in which law is a key tool in the process of interpretive denial. I trace two movements throughout Myanmar’s political history. The first was a territorial move, the constitutional creation of Rakhine State in 1974 and the making of the Rohingya as an invisible minority at the sub-national level. The second is a political move, the removal of the right to vote and run for office in 2015. As the global community struggles with how to respond to the crisis of genocide, I suggest that there is a need to understand the acts of interpretive denial that led to this crisis, beyond the issue of citizenship.



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) S ome 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 at O

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

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. Melissa Crouch at the USC Strategic Action Plan meeting 2016 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.  Melissa, Lisa and Melinda with law students from Dagon University In 2016, the first stag