An Interview with a Burmese lawyer taken by the Asian Human Rights Commission
How many years have you practiced as a lawyer? What kind of cases have you been working on?
I have been working in Burma as a lawyer since 2005. I work on all kinds of cases. However, most of the cases I handle are criminal cases as compared to civil cases and fundamental human rights abuse cases.
What is your experience with human rights abuse cases?
There is a difference between how human rights abuse cases and ordinary cases are processed. With the human rights abuse cases, the courts and the judges both experience government pressure. According to one of the cases I have represented, I was not allowed to give oral arguments in court. I was only allowed to present written arguments. In addition, I had no opportunity to meet directly with my client. There is no free and fair trial for this case.
I have learned that the Central Legal Aid Team of the National League for Democracy led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is to set up lawyers’ networks all across the regions in Burma.
As a lawyer, what do you think of this new network?
It is a good beginning to set up lawyers’ networks. The reason being, once we work by networks, we can have more discussions on the law and legal issues. This will give us a better idea about the lives of the people and about the laws which need to be corrected. There is strength in a group, and It is far better to work together as a group rather than working alone. And once we have national networks set up we can raise the awareness of the people about both their civil and constitutional rights.
I have learned that you have been working not only on human rights abuse cases but are also educating people about their rights. How do you go about educating them?
In my travels across the regions of Burma I meet many different kinds of people, such as farmers or day workers. I explain to them their legal rights as citizens, because they do not have even basic knowledge of the law. Once they have been made aware of their rights, they become aware of their losses. For example, workers have to work eight hours a day. When they are required to work more than eight hours for the meagre salary of 30000 kyats a month, they realize that their employers have taken advantage of them. Therefore, a heightened awareness about their legal rights can lead towards creating a more just living situation for them.
What do you think of the corrupt judges and lawyers in Burma?
It depends on the person. I have seen many judges who are of a good character. But on the other hand, some judges, public prosecutors and police have accepted above 100000 kyats as a bribe from the client before the case has been decided.
If the complainant wants permission to hire a private lawyer, he or she must pay at least 30000 kyats to the public prosecutors and at least 6000 kyats to the clerk for some necessary stamps or typing work. And also, there are some corrupted lawyers who are in collusion with judges in the following way. When lawyers accept cases they have to give about twenty percent of the settlement to the judges, public prosecutors and police after the case has been decided. This is the reality of the situation in my country today. Justice can only be done if judges, public prosecutors, lawyers and police act in good faith and their behaviour is honourable.
The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.