Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-s82fj Total loading time: 0.427 Render date: 2022-10-02T19:45:50.911Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": true, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Judicial Loyalty to the Military in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Courts Are Militarized in Myanmar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2022

Melissa Crouch*
Affiliation:
Professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice, the University of New South Wales, Australia. Email: melissa.crouch@unsw.edu.au.

Abstract

While scholars have considered the role of courts in authoritarian regimes generally, less attention has been paid to judicial-military relations. In this article I consider how courts are militarized and made subordinate and loyal to military rule. In military regimes, the courts are at risk of militarization and the process of rendering judges loyal to the military through practices such as career path socialization, selection, and restructuring of the courts. This raises an entry-exit dilemma for judges. The dilemma lies in the fact that if judges committed to civilian rule do not join the bench, they are potentially leaving the judiciary to military partisans with little prospect for reform. Yet joining the judiciary means the danger of being co-opted and adding legitimacy to the military regime or the risk of being forced out if politics shifts from civilian to military rule. Through a case study of judicial profiles in Myanmar, I explore how the loyalty of judges to the military depends on whether they are military insiders, military affiliates, civilian affiliates, or civilian outsiders. The case of Myanmar is a vivid reminder to scholars of judicial behavior that in military authoritarian regimes, judges face an entry-exit dilemma.

Type
Articles
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Bar Foundation

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

This article was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP180100772) on Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes. In 2019, I benefited from the National Library of Australia Asia Fellowship and the opportunity to use its Burmese language sources. Empirical projects of this kind are made possible by access to such unique and crucial library collections. This project is the culmination of work with the judiciary from 2011 to 2021. I would like to thank Sai Myint Aung for his research assistance in 2020 in compiling some of the data for this project. There are many others I would like to thank but cannot name, due to the military coup in Myanmar. I would like to thank Theunis Roux for his incisive and thorough comments on an earlier version of this article. I also thank Jonathan Bonnitcha, Amy Cohen, and Sida Liu for their comments.

References

REFERENCES

Annual Reports of the State and Region High Courts of the Union of Myanmar (published separately, in Burmese). Myanmar, 2018–2020.Google Scholar
Armytage, Livingston. Educating Judges: Towards Improving Justice. A Survey of Global Practice. Leiden: Brill Nijhoff, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Assegaf, Rifqi S.The Supreme Court: Reformasi, Independence and the Failure to Ensure Legal Certainty.” In The Politics of Court Reform: Judicial Change and Legal Culture in Indonesia, edited by Crouch, Melissa, 3158. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barros, Robert. Constitutionalism and Dictatorship: Pinochet, the Junta, and the 1980 Constitution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonnitcha, Jonathan. “The Impact of Investment Treaties on Domestic Governance in Myanmar.” Preprint, November 8, 2019. https://ssrn.com/abstract=3644056 or https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3644056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brooks, Rita A.Integrating the Civil-Military Relations Subfield.” Annual Review of Political Science 22 (2019): 379–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cappelletti, Mauro. The Judicial Process in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.Google Scholar
Cheesman, Nick. “Thin Rule of Law or Un-Rule of Law in Myanmar?Pacific Affairs 82, no. 4 (2009): 597613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheesman, Nick. “How an Authoritarian Regime in Burma Used Special Courts to Defeat Judicial Independence.” Law & Society Review 45, no. 4 (2012a): 801–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheesman, Nick. “Myanmar’s Courts and the Sounds Money Makes.” In Myanmar’s Transition: Openings, Obstacles and Opportunities, edited by Cheesman, Nick, Skidmore, Monique, and Wilson, Trevor, 231–48. Singapore: ISEAS, 2012b.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheesman, Nick. Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheesman, Nick. “On the Banality of Paperwork and the Brutality of Judicial Bureaucracy in Myanmar.” History and Anthropology 33, no. 1 (2019): 165–82. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02757206.2019.1607731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chin, John J., Carter, David B., and Wright, Joseph G.. “The Varieties of Coups D’état: Introducing the Colpus Dataset.” International Studies Quarterly 65, no. 4 (2021): 1040–51. https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqab058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Corrales, Javier. “Autocratic Legalism in Venezuela.” Journal of Democracy 26, no. 2 (2015): 3751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Melissa. “Democrats, Dictators and Constitutional Dialogue: Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal.” International Journal of Constitutional Law 16, no. 2 (2018): 421–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Melissa. The Constitution of Myanmar: A Contextual Analysis. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Melissa. “The Judicial Reform Landscape in Indonesia: Innovation, Specialisation and the Legacy of Dan S Lev.” In The Politics of Court Reform: Judicial Change and Legal Culture in Indonesia, edited by Crouch, Melissa, 132. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019b.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Melissa. “The Prerogative Writs as Constitutional Transfer.” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 38, no. 4 (2018): 653–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Melissa. “Pre-emptive Constitution-Making: Authoritarian Constitutionalism and the Military in Myanmar.” Law & Society Review 54, no. 2 (2020): 487515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dressel, Björn, Sanchez-Urribarri, Raul, and Stroh, Alexander. “The Informal Dimension of Judicial Politics: A Relational Perspective.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 13 (2017): 413–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Egreteau, Renaud. Caretaking Democratization: The Military and Political Change in Myanmar. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.Google Scholar
Emirbayer, Mustafa. “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology.” American Journal of Sociology 103, no. 2 (1997): 281317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finer, Samuel. The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics. London: Routledge, 2002. First published 1962.Google Scholar
Geddes, Barbara, Frantz, Erica, and Wright, Joseph G.. “Military Rule.” Annual Review of Political Science 17 (2014): 147–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geertz, Clifford. “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture.” In The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, 333. New York: Basic Books, 1973.Google Scholar
Geertz, Clifford. Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. 3rd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1983.Google Scholar
Ginsburg, Tom, and Moustafa, Tamir, eds. Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ginsburg, Tom, and Simpser, Alberto, eds. Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM). “Five Special Criminal Appeal Cases Passed Judgement, Six Civil Special Appeal Cases Heard.” June 15, 2021.Google Scholar
Halliday, Terence C., Karpik, Lucien, and Feeley, Malcolm M.. “The Legal Complex in Struggles for Political Liberalism.” In Fighting for Political Freedom: Comparative Studies of the Legal Complex for Political Change, edited by Terence, C. Halliday, Karpik, Lucien, and Malcolm, M. Feeley, 140. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2007.Google Scholar
Halliday, Terence C., and Karpik, Lucien. “Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: A Theme with Three Variations.” In Fates of Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: The Politics of the Legal Complex, edited by Terence, C. Halliday, Karpik, Lucien, and Malcolm, M. Feeley, 358. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamad, Mahmoud. Judges and Generals in the Making of Modern Egypt: How Institutions Sustain and Undermine Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hammergren, Linn. Envisioning Reform: Conceptual and Practical Obstacles to Improving Judicial Performance in Latin America. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
Helmke, Gretchen. Courts under Constraints: Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Hilbink, Lisa. Judges beyond Politics in Democracy and Dictatorship: Lessons from Chile. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hirschl, Ran. Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Hirschman, Albert O. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.Google Scholar
Howard, Robert M., and Randazzo, Kirk A., eds. The Routledge Handbook of Judicial Behaviour. London: Routledge, 2018.Google Scholar
Huntington, Samuel. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.Google Scholar
Kureshi, Yasser. “Selective Assertiveness and Strategic Deference: Explaining Judicial Contestation of Military Prerogatives in Pakistan.” Democratisation 28, no. 3 (2021a): 604–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kureshi, Yasser. “When Judges Defy Dictators: An Audience-Based Framework to Explain the Emergence of Judicial Assertiveness against Authoritarian Regimes.” Comparative Politics 53, no. 2 (2021b): 233–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kyaw Yin Hlaing. “Reconsidering the Failure of the Burma Socialist Programme Party Government to Eradicate Internal Economic Impediments.” South East Asia Research 11, no. 1 (2003): 558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kyed, Helene Maria, ed. Everyday Justice in Myanmar: Informal Resolutions and State Evasion in a Time of Contested Transition. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2020.Google Scholar
Landau, David. “Abusive Constitutionalism.” UC Davis Law Review 47, no. 1 (2013): 189260.Google Scholar
Markovits, Inga. Imperfect Justice: An East-West German Diary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.Google Scholar
Massoud, Mark Fathi. “International Arbitration and Judicial Politics in Authoritarian States.” Law & Social Inquiry 39, no. 1 (2014): 130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Massoud, Mark Fathi. “Field Research on Law in Conflict Zones and Authoritarian States.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 12 (2016): 85106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Massoud, Mark Fathi. “Sudan’s Rule of Law Revolution.” Current History 119, no. 817 (2020): 169–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maung Aung Myoe. Building the Tatmadaw: Myanmar Armed Forces since 1948. Singapore: ISEAS, 2009.Google Scholar
McCann, Michael. “Causal versus Constitutive Explanations (or, On the Difficulty of Being so Positive …).” Law and Social Inquiry 21, no. 2 (1996): 457–82.Google Scholar
Merry, Sally Engle. Colonizing Hawaii: The Cultural Power of Law. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merry, Sally Engle. “Ethnography in the Archives.” In Practicing Ethnography in Law: New Dialogues, Enduring Methods, edited by Starr, June and Goodale, Mark, 128–42. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merryman, John Henry, and Pérez-Perdomo, Rogelio. The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Europe and Latin America. 3rd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moustafa, Tamir. “Law versus the State: The Judicialization of Politics in Egypt.” Law & Social Inquiry 28, no. 4 (2003): 883930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moustafa, Tamir. The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moustafa, Tamir. “Law and Courts in Authoritarian Regimes.” Annual Review of Law & Social Sciences 10 (2014): 281–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moustafa, Tamir, and Ginsburg, Tom. “The Functions of Courts in Authoritarian Politics.” In Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes, edited by Ginsburg, Tom and Moustafa, Tamir, 122. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
Muller, Ingo. Hitler’s Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.Google Scholar
Zan, Myint. “Judicial Independence in Burma: No March Backwards Towards the Past.” Asian Pacific Law and Policy Journal 5 (2000): 136.Google Scholar
Zan, Myint. “Legal Education in Burma since the Mid-1960s.” Journal of Burma Studies 12 (2008): 63107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zan, Myint. “The ‘New’ Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal: Marginal Improvement or More of the Same?” In Myanmar’s Transition: Openings, Obstacles and Opportunities, edited by Cheesman, Nick, Skidmore, Monique, and Wilson, Trevor, 249–68. Singapore: ISEAS, 2014.Google Scholar
Nakanishi, Yoshihiro. Strong Soldiers, Failed Revolution: The State and Military in Burma, 1962-88. Singapore: NUS Press, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nardi, Dominic J., and Moe, Lwin. “Understanding the Myanmar Supreme Court’s Docket: An Analysis of Case Topics from 2007 to 2011.” In Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, edited by Crouch, Melissa and Lindsey, Tim, 95114. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2014.Google Scholar
Nordlinger, Eric A. Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Governments. London: Prentice-Hall, 1977.Google Scholar
O’Donnell, Guillermo. Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics. Berkeley, CA: Institute of International Studies: University of California, 1973.Google Scholar
Pereira, Anthony W. Political (In)justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perlmutter, Amos. The Military and Politics in Modern Times: On Professionals, Praetorians, and Revolutionary Soldiers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977.Google Scholar
Powell, Jonathan M., and Thyne, Clayton L.. “Global Instances of Coups from 1950 to 2010: A New Dataset.” Journal of Peace Research 48, no. 2 (2011): 249–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rajah, Jothie. Authoritarian Rule of Law: Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Remmer, Karen L. Military Rule in Latin America. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.Google Scholar
Roux, Theunis. The Politics of Principle: The First South African Constitutional Court, 1995-2005. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roux, Theunis. The Politico-Legal Dynamics of Judicial Review: A Comparative Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheppele, Kim Lane. “Constitutional Ethnography: An Introduction.” Law & Society Review 38, no. 3 (2004): 389406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheppele, Kim Lane. “Autocratic Legalism.” University of Chicago Law Review 85, no. 2 (2018): 545–84.Google Scholar
Segal, Jeffrey A.Judicial Behaviour.” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Science, edited by Robert, E. Goodin, 275–88. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
Shapiro, Martin. Courts: A Comparative and Political Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silbey, Susan S.Making Sense of the Lower Courts.” The Justice System Journal 6, no. 1 (1981): 1327.Google Scholar
Slater, Dan. “The Elements of Surprise: Assessing Burma’s Double-Edged Détente.” South East Asia Research 22, no. 2 (2014): 171–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Staton, Jeffrey K.Judicial Independence Research beyond the Crossroads.” In Routledge Handbook of Judicial Behavior, edited by Robert, M. Howard and Kirk, A. Randazzo. New York: Routledge, 2017.Google Scholar
Trubek, David M., and Galanter, Marc. “Scholars in Self-Estrangement: Some Reflections on the Crisis in Law and Development Studies in the United States.” Wisconsin Law Review 1974, no. 4 (1974): 10621102.Google Scholar
Tushnet, Mark. “Authoritarian Constitutionalism.” Cornell Law Review 100, no. 2 (2015): 391461.Google Scholar
Union Supreme Court. Judicial Journal [1998-2008]. Yangon [in Burmese and English].Google Scholar
Verner, Joel G.The Independence of Supreme Courts in Latin America: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Latin American Studies 16, no. 2 (1984): 463506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, Juan, and Liu, Sida. “Ordering Power under the Party: A Relational Approach to Law and Politics in China.” Asian Journal of Law and Society 6, no. 1 (2019): 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Whittington, Keith E.Once More unto the Breach: Post-behavioralist Approaches to Judicial Politics.” Law & Social Inquiry 25, no. 2 (2000): 601–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Win Ko Ko Latt. “Rakhine State Judge Resigns to Beat Impeachment.” The Myanmar Times, October 24, 2013. https://www.mmtimes.com/national-news/8570-rakhine-state-judge-resigns-to-beat-impeachment.html.Google Scholar
Zheng, Chunyan, Ai, Jiahui, and Liu, Sida. “The Elastic Ceiling: Gender and Professional Career in Chinese Courts.” Law & Society Review 51, no. 1 (2017): 168–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Judicial Loyalty to the Military in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Courts Are Militarized in Myanmar
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Judicial Loyalty to the Military in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Courts Are Militarized in Myanmar
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Judicial Loyalty to the Military in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Courts Are Militarized in Myanmar
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *