Friday, July 23, 2021

Misuse of military law in Myanmar

Adherence to the rule of law has reached a new low in Myanmar, according to this report from Human Rights Watch that the armed forces, having imposed martial law, are now routinely imposing death sentences on civilians following trial by court-martial. Many of the new capital offences fall neatly under the rubric of what civilized nations would consider freedom of speech and peaceful protest.

This is precisely the sort of thing which gives military justice a bad name around the world. I am reminded of something that His Excellency the Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg said to New Zealand's Dominion Law Conference four years after the end of World War II:

"...the true rule of law is not purely a matter of academic or legal interest, but rather one which concerns the whole nation, whether at work in peacetime or on the field of battle upholding the rule of law. That is a logical conclusion... 

...unless you are prepared to uphold the rule of law, by force of arms if necessary, democracy is but a misleading and empty word, for the contrast between a democracy and the totalitarian State lies in the reliance by peoples wedded to democratic ideals on the rule of law".

[2001] New Zealand Armed Forces Law Review 34.

I for one will be looking for ways to ensure that I do not inadvertently support the junta in Myanmar, e.g., by consuming products imported from that nation.

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