By Naing Lin Kyi
Photo: Thaw Phone Khant
“Rule of law is the basic foundation for the emergence of democratic system.
The government has formed a team to combine the rule of law and the justice matters in 2017.
Stepping ahead with the three aim and objective namely that of providing legal protection to the people; that of creating better condition of rule of law; and that of access to justice by all citizens; the Union Attorney General (UAG) Office has successfully vetted (130) bills and gave suggestions on them. Moreover, (296) assortments of by-laws, rules, notifications, orders, instructions, and procedures have been scrutinized and gave suggestions during the fourth year period.
Despite the heavy work load, the UAG Office has dealt with (1,473) legal documents and (540) general documents, and provided suggestions. Moreover, legal advice has been provided before the actual prosecutions and trials, and that the UAG Office acted as legal representation of behalf of the government.
On regular basis, the UAG is always there in helping hand to other ministries and also to the Supreme Court of the Union on legal matters.
“Rule of law is the basic foundation for the emergence of democratic system. The government has formed a team to combine the rule of law and the justice matters in 2017. A strategic project 2019 – 2023 in the name of “Justice for People” was released in January 2019. Among the team and the states / regions, there were (179) cases of complaints and submissions. The matters have been settled. There were (34) rounds of discussions taken place,” Union Attorney General U Tun Tun Oo explained.
On the other hand, the UAG Office has released the strategy namely “Towards the Rule of Law” for 2015 – 2019. After review, the second five year strategy 2020 – 2024 was laid down.
Legal advice and recommendations have been provided to the Supreme Court of the Union in connection with the advocates and lawyers, including the cases over the breach of ethic and morality whether to take action or otherwise.
“Bill to amend the Bar Council Act was discussed and approved in Amyotha Hluttaw and is now being prepared for discussion and approval in Pyithu Hluttaw. Once the bill to amend the Act is enacted as law, Bar Council will be expanded to 15 members and will include up to 11 Supreme Court lawyers. Supreme Court lawyers are urged to raise their capacity and value their ethic and morality so that the people obtain a fair justice,” said the Union Attorney General.
Propagation of knowledge on law
With as view to propagate knowledge on law, the UAG Office is publishing motley assortments of law books.
Interesting law knowledge propagation is that the law website being uploaded by the UAG Office. The Myanmar Law Information System (MLIS) is a website providing service of the Myanmar law information. It has more than (510,000) visitors.
Translation of existing law
Another interesting point is the translation of law. The existing laws written in English have been translated into Myanmar. There are (81) laws that needs to be translated into Myanmar, and so far (20) laws have been translated.
On 14 February 2020, the “Criminal Investigation and Prosecution Committee” held their first meeting at the office of the Union Attorney-General. The final report of “the Independent Commission of Enquiry” (ICOE) said crimes have been committed during those conflicts in 13 areas of Maungtaw, Buthidaung and Yethedaung townships. The UAG Office said they are to investigate into these alleged crimes and pursue legal action where required. He said this committee was formed with Order 19/2020 from the President’s office on 24 January 2020.
UAG U Tun Tun Oo, who is also chairman of the committee, first said ARSA attacked police outposts, police stations and a Tatmadaw battalion in northern Rakhine State on 25 August 2017. ARSA and security forces then clashed after this.
The final report of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) said crimes have been committed during those conflicts in 13 areas of Maungtaw, Buthidaung and Yethedaung townships. The crimes were said to have been committed by ARSA and its affiliates and by security forces and civilians. The UAG Office has formed relevant legal aid teams to assist in the matter.
Legal service to emerge
The Universal Periodic Review(UPR) is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council that emerged from the 2005 UN reform process. Myanmar communicated UPR in 2011 and 2015, and that Myanmar received (281) recommendations (166) suggestions from (93) countries. The third draft is ready to be submitted to the national level committee.
In various legal spheres, the UAG Office is lending hand including the legislative, administrative and judicial pillars, concentrated with the intent for the emergence of a system offering legal service to the public.
Legal advice and suggestions over the draft bills prepared by other ministries have been responded officially by the relevant departments of the UAG Office.
“Advice and suggestions on the intended law are being provided after consideration on many faceted such as that of in conformity with the existing policies; that of inline with the interest of the people; that of in agreement with the international convention; that of no negative impact on the sovereignty of the nation,” said Deputy AG U Win Myint.
Two parts in a law
With regards to a law, there are two portions such as that of the “Theme portion of the law” and “Writing format portion of the law”, and therefore, the UAG Office is paying greater attention on the portion of writing format to be accurate and precise.
The UAG Office is properly handling on all the drafts with regards to laws as well as the by-laws, rules and regulations, notifications, orders, instructions, procedures, being sent from other ministries and departments. In November 2019, the UAG Office published the “Legislative Drafting Guidance”.
Elimination of Child Labor
The 37-member Myanmar National Committee on Child Labor Eradication, led by the Vice President (1), was formed by Notification No. 23/2018 dated 5 February 2018 from the Office of the President.
“Main responsibility of the legal affairs committee is to draft the bill and submit to national committee, and that necessary meetings were conducted with relevant organizations for three occasions, and discussed on various aspects. Cooperation and collaboration are the key components in the process,” explained U Win Myint.
Accelerating cooperation among lawyers
Established in 1979, initiated by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, the ASEAN Law Association (ALA) is a non-governmental organization that brings together the ASEAN legal fraternity of judges, government and practicing lawyers and teachers of law. The ALA is providing assistances in legal matters of the region.
Myanmar joins ALA
Union Attorney-General U Tun Tun Oo, in his capacity as Chairman of the ASEAN Law Association (Myanmar), attended the association’s meeting No. 1/2019 at his office’s meeting hall on 31 May 2019. Speaking at the meeting, the Union Attorney-General said the ALA was formed during the “Legal Development in ASEAN Countries Conference” in Jakarta, Indonesia in February 1979 from a proposal to form a lawyers’ network for the ASEAN region.
He said this association works closely with the ASEAN Law Ministers Meeting while simultaneously promoting co-operation between law officials within ASEAN and participating in regional law affairs.
The UAG said Myanmar became a member to ALA on 18 February 2012 and formed the Myanmar branch in line with ALA’s directives.
“Myanmar National Committee was reorganized in September 2014 with new members. It was again reorganized in April 2019, and held its first meeting. It raised the cooperation in legal sphere, and help assist in the rule of law,” said Deputy AG U Win Myint.
“The first strategy 2015 – 2019 was adopted with the motto, “Moving forward to the Rule of Law”. At that time, due to lack of expertise and expertise, there was no “baseline” drawn. At the time of monitoring and evaluation in 2019, unexpected achievements are being realized.
“We have accomplished in establishing a “System” that is amazingly instrumental and helpful to the users in the law sphere to have access on laws, by-laws, orders, and procedures. As the system could provide wide ranging data and information, we could accomplish various tasks with regards to the law related topics,” explained Permanent Secretary Dr. Thida Oo.
First strategy was completed in 2019, and that the new strategy 2020 – 2024 would be released soon. The main focus is to win the trust of the people and to reform in the justice approach.
“For the effective and successful achievement of the tasks of UAG Office, the expertise and skills of the officers and the staff members are very much vital and critical. Therefore, they have been imparted with varied and wide ranging training courses. On top of that newly innovated teaching methodology is in the pipeline,” the Permanent Secretary said.
Laws vetting and Advisory Department at the UAG Office has many divisions overseeing the issues of laws. During the fourth year period, the department has provided with relevant advice and suggestions over the legal documents sent from government departments. Detailed vetting has been done on the legal documents before sending back to the relevant departments.
“With regards to the laws written in English, the translation tasks were shouldered by the UAG as Chairman, and I took the duty as Secretary of the Committee. We accomplished the translation tasks on (24) laws,” explained Director-General Dr. Swe Swe Aung.
During the fourth year period, the guidebook for drafting bills has been published with the assistance of the UNDP.
“Training course on law subject translation task has been convened twice with the assistance of British Council and the My Justice Program under the aegis of the EU. The publishing of ‘Translation Guide Book’ is in the process. Moreover, the UAG and I have been working in the implementation of national land use policy related to laws connected with the land management,” said Director-General Dr. Swe Swe Aung.
The work committee convened two workshops by inviting all stakeholders, and the outcome of the workshops have been compiled into a final draft, and that the public would be informed in soliciting advice their advice.
“The legal advisory department is formed with three divisions, and the department is offering legal advice on regular cases with miscellaneous nature,” explained Director-General Dr. Thi Thi Myint.
During the fourth year period, the UAG Office has dealt with the matters with regards to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
“In some of the documents that we have had vetted involved ‘Consultant Contract’ in connection with the Bagan historic sites. We replied with legal suggestions on these consultant matters and also on ‘Nomination Dossier,” explained Director-General.
The UAG office has provided the suggestions on the land lease agreement document with regards to Dawei Special Economic Zone.
The Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone Management Committee and the CITIC Consortium are planning to sign an agreement. The documents are the “Concession Agreement (Draft)” and the “Shareholder’s Agreement (Draft)” with regards to the project, and that due reply have been given back.
UAG Office is cooperating with the JICA in legal matters, and that meetings and training course were conducted at (11) states / regions. “Contract Manual Guideline” will be published soon in collaboration with JICA.
“We are trying our best to offer good suggestions and recommendations in all the legal documents in the context of investments and commercial matters,” said Director-General Dr. Thi Thi Myint.
“The UAG office is rendering necessary legal representation in connection with the Union level organizations, ministries, departments, the Supreme Court of the Union, the Union Election Commission, the Constitutional Tribunals Commission,” said Director-General Daw Phu Mar Wai.
New system has been implemented in the “case management” and the “document management” with the assistance of the USAID. Moreover, (8) units of “Pilot Law Office” have been opened, and that the cases were being expedited in their disposals.
In the concluding part of the interview, “Capacity building of officers of different ministries and departments and law officers of legal departments has been realized by convening (7) rounds of workshops being arranged by the ‘Special Prosecution Unit’ constituted with the Director-General of Prosecution and Case Proceeding Department and (24) law Officers, in dealing with the cross border crimes,” said Director-General Daw Phu Mar Wai.
In summing up, the UAG Office is dashing ahead while working towards better rule of law in the country. Translated by UMT (Ahlon)