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"Social Justice and Rule of Law in Burma"

by U Aung Htoo
National Council for the Union of Burma

On November 9, the members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), formed by the ruling military regime in Burma, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), comprised a mob that attacked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade, breaking windshields and slightly injuring her party's vice-chairman U Tin Oo.

The SLORC blamed the incident on saboteurs from her party, but the attack took place beyond police check points in a place where Suu Kyi's supporters were not allowed to enter. At that time, the leaders of the attackers had been talking into walkie-talkies of which ordinary people are not allowed to use in Burma. Some mob members told diplomats that the SLORC had paid them $3 US dollars to attack the motorcade. In reality, the attack was a serious offense against public tranquillity in Rangoon. Regarding this, the section 148 of the Penal Code mentioned as follows:

Rioting, Armed With Deadly Weapon:

Whoever is guilty of rioting, being armed with a deadly weapon or with anything which, used as a weapon of offense, is likely to cause death, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Nevertheless, for this offense, no one was arrested and no action was taken by the SLORC authorities. During the first week of December, student demonstrations erupted at numerous colleges in Rangoon and Mandalay. This has been the most serious challenge to the current military regime since 1988, the year the military regime seized power by brutally crushing a nationwide pro-democracy uprising. The students demanded an end to police brutality, the right to form a student union, and an increase in freedom and human rights.

The underlying cause of the student demonstrations is the severe oppression by the SLORC military regime. However, the military intelligence has accused Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi as the instigator of the student unrest and has thus confined her to her home for several days. If the SLORC has proof that she incited the students, they have to take legal action against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and engage in a legal law suit. However, according to the Code of Criminal Procedure and other criminal laws still existing inside Burma, the SLORC authorities do not have the proof and grounds to confine her. They have no formal charge. In confining Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the SLORC violates their Penal Code.

The section 339, 340 and 342 of the Penal Code is provided as follows:

Section 338 - Wrongful Restraint
Whoever voluntarily obstruct any person, so as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which that person has a right to proceed, is said wrongfully to restrain that person.

Section 340 - Wrongful Confinement
Whoever wrongfully restrains any person in such a manner as to prevent that person from proceeding beyond certain circumscribing limits is said "wrongfully to confine."

Section 342 - Punishment for wrongful confinement
Whoever wrongfully confines any person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand Kyat, or with both.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has attested that Win Sein, SLORC's minister for rail and transportation and member of the secretariat of the USDA, publicly incited pro-government followers to kill her during a regional meeting of the USDA in the first week of February. Win Sein reportedly told the crowd to "weed out" Suu Kyi. He then reportedly told the crowd if they grasped what he meant.

"I am telling you to kill her," he said. The SLORC is unable to deny what Win Sein had said because there were many people who witnessed his threats at that meeting. The SLORC government continues to violate their own laws. The Section 503 of the Penal Code is as follows:

Criminal Intimidation
Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whim that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.
The Section 506 of the penal Code is as follows:
Punishment for Criminal Intimidation
Whoever commits the offense of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; And if the threat causes death or grievous hurt, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.
The military regime itself is the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Whenever the SLORC's authorities deliver speeches, they usually urge the people to obey "law and order". However, "law and order" means forcing the people to obey the law provided by the successive military regimes whether they are just or not. According to their observed practices of law and order, the SLORC's authorities seem to think they are above the law, and for many reasons they also neglect international laws. Moreover, the SLORC also refuse to observe internal laws still in force even when these laws are contrary to their own benefit. Under the "Law and Order", the military regime itself is the law. It is the law making body, but it also is the law "breaking" body. According to the SLORC, law is only for the observance of people, not for the SLORC's authorities. Without an appropriate and democratic rule of law, a country cannot have long term stability and peace and tranquillity will not prevail.

Under the slogan of "law and order", women have been raped and people have been tortured and killed. Without enjoying an independent judiciary, people have also been put in the prison. To this day, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace prize winner and charismatic leader of Burma, continues to be threatened with death.

The struggle of the people led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the fight for social justice. Social justice cannot be achieved without democracy, human rights. Can Daw Aung San Suu Kyi win the fight for social justice over a military regime who does not observe their own set of laws? Though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has no arms and ammunition, no army; and no intelligence organizations, she is capable and courageous enough for victory. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been taking the right political track and is able to convince the people to continue the struggle. She is able to promote the political awareness of the people and of all the oppressed people including the ethnic nationalities who support her. This continued support is what will bring social justice in Burma.

Without democracy, there cannot be unity in the region for the long term. There cannot be equality among the people. There will be no secure guarantee of long term success for the business men inside Burma and for the international companies that have been investing in Burma. Without democracy the citizens cannot enjoy private security. These severe and oppressive situations are what will win the social justice threaten the power of the military regime.

Now is the time for the international community to stand up for social justice and democracy in Burma.

U Aung Htoo is the Coordinator of the Foreign Affairs Committee
for the National Council for the Union of Burma.
He is also Secretary of the Burma Lawyers' Council.

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