The rhetorical force of the rule of law is acknowledged through official discourse in Myanmar just as it is in other countries across Asia and around the world. Given that Myanmar manifestly does not conform to substantive models of the rule of law, which are associated with democratic government and individual liberties, might it conform to a minimalist one? Is there in Myanmar a thin rule of law to which the military government can lay claim, one compatible even with grave abuses of human rights? Or is there only "un-rule of law"? Beginning with some theoretical concerns, this article passes briefly through a review of law and rule-of-law rhetoric in the country's modern history before arriving at the present day. It recounts a court case arising from a recent historic event, the September 2007 antigovernment protests, to query whether or not a thin rule of law can, in Myanmar at least, be said to coexist with authoritarian rule. It concludes that it cannot. But if the army in Myanmar has succeeded in overwhelming the courts at cost of the rule of law, ironically in doing this it may also have averted a worse scenario, one in which the denial of fundamental rights for which it is well known could be even greater than at present.
|Published - 2009