NAYPYITAW — A legal aid center opened in administrative capital Naypyitaw’s Pobbathiri Township on Saturday.
The justice center is the sixth of its kind in Myanmar, implemented as part of the My Justice Program, funded by the European Union in partnership with International Bridges to Justice (IBJ).
The centers offer free legal services to anyone who’s been charged with a crime and can’t afford to hire a lawyer, anyone who is under the age of 18, minorities, and those who are disabled or discriminated against, according to the non-governmental legal aid group.
“This center is intended to assist the poor, as Dekkhinathiri District court is close to it,” said Jim Taylor of the IBJ.
So far, justice centers have been opened in Mandalay, Shan State’s Taunggyi and Kalaw, Bago’s Toungoo and Karen State’s Hpa-an.
Since before its official opening, the center provided legal advice for defendants in 23 cases including rape, drug, murder and robbery cases, said Daw Wint Wint Aye, an official with the center.
“If those charged with crimes are too poor to hire a lawyer, they can ask for our help. We will assist them for free,” she said.
Justice centers aim to improve access to justice and legal aid for the poor and vulnerable, develop the legal capacity of justice sector professionals and strengthen selected rule of law institutions to better fulfill their mandates, according to the IBJ.
According to the justice center, anyone whose monthly income is less than 120,000 kyats is eligible for services. And the monthly income of the family members of the defendants must also be less than 120,000 kyats per month in order to receive assistance from the legal aid group.
“They only provide legal services for defendants, and not plaintiffs. Their intentions are good,” said Naypyitaw-based lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.