Legislating Reform? Law and Conflict in Myanmar
Nick Cheesman and Nicholas Farrelly (eds) (2016) Conflict in Myanmar: War, Politics, Religion. Singapore: ISEAS
25 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 15, 2016
What is the relationship between law and conflict? In particular, what role does law-making play in avoiding, managing, or in fact exacerbating conflict? This chapter considers these questions in the context of Myanmar. Legal reform often occurs at moments of political conflict, crisis and change, and this is also the case in Myanmar. There is an implicit assumption that law has not played a significant role in Myanmar in the past but that in the post-2011 political transition era law will make an important contribution to the reform process. At the core of this assumption is the idea that law helps, rather than hinders, conflict. In this chapter, however, I examine law-making by parliament and the dual capacity of law to both manage and engender conflict. I identify three main aspects of the legislative reform agenda from 2010 to 2015: structural governance reforms as conflict between institutions; economic and business reforms as conflict between commercial stakeholders; and social reforms as conflict between civil society and the state. I then consider these legal reforms in terms of their textual content and structure, demonstrating how laws have been used to avoid conflict by keeping disputes away from the courts. I conclude by suggesting that the value of analysing law through its relation to violence and conflict is that this allows for an awareness of the need for greater caution in law reform. Such consciousness would temper the current atmosphere in which every ministry is seeking a new law, yet few are actually willing to work at implementing the reforms in the long term.
Keywords: Myanmar, Burma, law, conflict, parliament
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