In the resistance to the military coup in Myanmar, protesters have frequently hoisted placards reading ‘we want justice’ and ‘justice for Myanmar’. Demands for justice sit alongside calls for democracy and an end to decades of military dominance in Myanmar politics, which has also extended to the official justice system – the courts and the police. With the increasingly violent crackdowns and arbitrary arrests of civilians by the security forces, it has become clear that the courts and the police are with few exceptions ready to compromise with the rule of law and citizen rights to follow the army’s commands. Even before the coup, the official justice system was largely associated with injustice and mistrusted by ordinary citizens, who predominantly preferred to access justice through informal and customary systems. This mistrust can be expected to have grown substantially since the coup, reflecting a strong divergence between popular demands for justice and how the official, military-controlled judiciary is enforcing law. Since the coup on 1 February the military has used a legal discourse and employed notions of law and order in their justifications for the coup and the crackdowns on civilian resistance. How is this playing out, and how are we to understand this usage in the present situation and through a historical lens? And are there people within the judiciary and the police who are ready to oppose the military junta, and in what ways may this affect the resistance more broadly? Another set of important questions regards how justice is understood and articulated among ordinary citizens’ who oppose the coup? How does the struggle against the military’s injustices feed into revolutionary aspirations for a new federal democracy and how do people imagine an alternative justice system? What form of transitional justice would be desirable in Myanmar in the long run?
These questions will be discussed by Myanmar experts at this webinar co-organised by the Danish Institute for International Studies and Oxford University as part of the Thanakha International Webinar Series Burma/ Myanmar.
Helene Maria Kyed, Danish Institute for International Studies
Khin Mar Mar Kyi, Oxford University
Nick Cheesman, Australian National University
Myat Thet Thitsar, Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation