Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar.

AuthorThuzar, Moe
PositionBook review

Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar. Edited by Melissa Crouch and Tim Lindsey. Oxford, United Kingdom: Hart Publishing, 2014. Hardcover: 442pp.

Metamorphosis: Studies in Social and Political Change in Myanmar. Edited by Renaud Egreteau and Francois Robinne. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2016. Softcover: 448pp.

The fast-changing political dynamics in Myanmar defy any attempt to provide timely academic research that will aid laymen and scholars alike in understanding the transition of this former enigma in a cocoon. Two edited volumes now fill the oft-lamented vacuum of academic and policy analysis on Myanmar's trajectory of political change.

The twenty-chapter Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, edited by Melissa Crouch and Tim Lindsey, is the first comprehensive collection to examine Myanmar's legal system and the broader political implications of legal reform. Readers should treat this as a one-stop resource to understanding how law, history and societal life in Myanmar collide with and influence the country's political development and transformation. The volume delivers on its promise to fill the information and understanding gap on the historical legacy and key issues that legal reform in contemporary Myanmar requires. The editors rightly acknowledge the neglect of legal scholarship on and in Myanmar up to the present. The compendium is a welcome effort by legal scholars to remedy this shortcoming, taking advantage of Myanmar's political and administrative reforms initiated in 2011-12 which have led to a "resurrection" of the study and interpretation of law.

The introductory chapters (1 to 3) lay out the legal landscape and the nascent law reform process that started in 2013, as well as analysing the intersect between social and legal life in Burma/ Myanmar that have added extra layers of complexity to an already complex system. Even the term "common law" in Myanmar does not carry the same meaning as it does elsewhere. From Andrew Huxley's discussion of the influence of Buddhism on Burmese law in the past, and the lasting impact of not just colonial legacies but also the post-1962 coup attempts to remodel the legal system by the military; to Nicholas Cheesman's analysis of the treatment of "bodies" that offended or disrupted order in colonial Burma, readers are afforded a valuable insight into how present attitudes have been shaped towards race, ethnicity and (legal) identity. This is the Gordian knot that...

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