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Rule of Law Seminar in Burma/Myanmar

Director of the Bingham Centre Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell participated in a Rule of Law Seminar in Burma, organised by the European Union and the Attorney General of Myanmar, on 9 February in the capital Nay Pyi Taw. Present throughout the day was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair of their Parliamentary Committee for "The Rule of Law and Tranquility". The purpose of the meeting was to identify the role of the rule of law in the country's future. It was attended by about 300, including lawyers, civil servants, judges, members of parliament and NGOs.

The proceedings were opened by Myanmar's Attorney General, who invoked Lord Bingham's definition of the rule of law, and pledged that the country was committed to taking it forward. Daw Suu Kyi then identified a number of areas in which the rule of law was lacking in Burma/Myanmar, including an overloaded parliamentary drafting system, lack of facilities in courts and deficiencies in legal education. Above all, she said, ordinary people interact more with the administration than with courts, and it is that area that needs to be both more efficient and more compliant with rule of law standards.

I addressed the Seminar, and also participated in a later discussion session, and made the initial points that the rule of law was not a purely Western concept and was not vague but contained practical elements, as set out in Lord Bingham's book and in recent international instruments drawing on that book. I then made a number of suggestions about how the rule of law could be enhanced, including a more transparent law-making system and, taking up Aung San Suu Kyi's point, by setting out standards of good administration and administrative justice. These standards should be implemented through training and by providing the opportunity to challenge unlawful administrative action cheaply and effectively.

We are in discussions with the EU and others on the possible ways in which the Bingham Centre might be able to assist the promotion of the rule of law in Myanmar.

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