Interference in Judicial System Harming Burmese People: Lawmakers

By Nyein Nyein, Reform 14 August 2013

More than a dozen lawmakers discussed rule of law in a session of the Lower House on Wednesday, after a parliamentary committee looking into the issue found continued intervention by administrative officials in the judicial system.

In an annual report submitted on Monday, a parliamentary committee led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said poor rule of law was harming the Burmese people.

Committee member Khin Saw Wai, from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party said the committee had received about 11,259 complaints over the course of one year.

About one-third of those complaints were related to judicial injustice over civil torts, she said. The rest were related to administrative corruption and land-grabs, as well as violations of the peace and social injustices.

“Although the report does a good job highlighting the need [for rule of law], I am not very satisfied with it,” Khin Saw Wai told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “We would like to provide as much help as possible, but rule of law is a broad issue and we cannot cover everything.”

Parliament’s Rule of Law Committee has called for more collaboration between the legislative, judicial and administrative members of government to strengthen rule of law in the country, which is transitioning from nearly half a century of military rule.

The report included findings from visits to provincial and township courts in nine states and regions from September 2012 to June 2013. It called for greater efforts to keep track of bribery and interference in the judicial sector by administrative officials.

But Khin Saw Wai added, “The committee does not actually have authoritative power to intervene, except highlighting the issues affecting the people.”

The report also highlights long-standing corruption problems, despite democratic reforms.

The committee says it has responded to complaints of civil torts but was rarely able to assist victims of arbitrary detention or those who were imprisoned under false accusations.

Among those widely believed to have been wrongly detained was ethnic Kachin farmer Lahtaw Brang Shawng, who said in a public conference on Monday that he was tortured by military personnel and forced to confess to the crimes he did not commit. Like him, many ethnic minorities in Burma continue to face torture under detention.

Brang Shawng was arrested and accused of being part of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). He was detained for over a year and sentenced in July to two years in prison but released under a presidential pardon within a week of the court’s decision.

Brang Shawng’s lawyer Mah Kha told The Irrawaddy recently that the judge did not make an independent decision in the case at the township court. The activist lawyer and his client have complained to the provincial court, which rejected their appeal last Wednesday. They say they will now take their appeal to the state court and if necessary to the Union Supreme Court.

Khin Saw Wai from the parliamentary committee said victims of abuse by any institution can report their case to the committee, whose chairman can then follow up with respective institutions, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Ministry of Defense, to take action.