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Rule-of-law Lineages in Colonial and Early Post-colonial Burma*

  • NICK CHEESMAN (a1)

Abstract

These days the rule of law is often invoked in Burma. Although its contemporary salience is partly a consequence of recent global trends, the rule of law also has lineages in the country's colonial and early post-colonial periods. To examine these lineages, this article distinguishes between its procedural and substantive conceptions. Whereas the latter conception recognizes the subjects of law as freely associating equals, the former is compatible with a range of political practices, including those that are undemocratic. The records of decisions in criminal cases before Burma's superior courts during the period of British domination suggest that some semblance of procedural rule of law did exist, and that it was compatible with the rule of colonial difference. Out of this procedural rule of law a nascent, substantive type emerged during the early years of democratic life in the post-colony, before the onset of military dictatorship. The article concludes that more effort to structure interpretations of the rule of law in history might better enable discussion about the concept's continued relevance.

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Thank you to Craig Reynolds and Terry Halliday for their comments on versions of this article, as well as to Bronwen Douglas, and to colleagues in the Pacific and Asian History seminar series at the Australian National University, for questions and suggestions in response to a talk on this topic. Special thanks to Saowapha Viravong and all the staff at the National Library of Australia, and to Thant Thaw Kaung and Ma Win Win at the Myanmar Book Centre, for their help in finding and acquiring materials on which the article draws. Lastly, thank you to the article's anonymous reviewers for their thorough comments, which gave me the opportunity to rethink arguments, re-examine sources, and explore new material with which to clarify and amplify its contents.

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1 Prior to 1989 the country now officially known as Myanmar was referred to in English as Burma. Because this article is for the most part concerned with events before the name change occurred, it uses the old name.

2 In one fictional interview, Aung San Suu Kyi replies to every question that ‘we need the rule of law’. Burma Tha Din Network (23 April 2013). Exclusive Interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma Tha Din Network: http://burmathadinnetwork.blogspot.com, [accessed 29 April 2015].

3 As discussed in Cheesman, N. (2014). What Does the Rule of Law Have to Do with Democratisation (in Myanmar)? South East Asia Research, 22:2, pp. 213232.

4 Tamanaha, B. Z. (2004). On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 4.

5 This purpose is in turn part of a project to explore ideas and practices associated with the rule of law in Burma from the colonial period to the present day. See further, Cheesman, N. (2015). Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar's Courts Make Law and Order, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Thank you to Cambridge University Press for permitting me to reproduce parts of Chapters 2 and 3 from that book in this article.

6 Ocko, J. K. and Gilmartin, D. (2009). State, Sovereignty, and the People: A Comparison of the ‘Rule of Law’ in China and India, Journal of Asian Studies, 68:1, p. 65.

7 Maung Maung (1961). Burma's Constitution, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, p. 151.

8 Halliday, T. C. and Karpik, L., ‘Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: A Theme with Three Variations’, in Halliday, T. C., Karpik, L. and Feeley, M. M. (2012). Fates of Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: The Politics of the Legal Complex, Cambridge University Press, New York, p. 12.

9 Chanock, M. (1985). Law, Custom and Social Order: The Colonial Experience in Malawi and Zambia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 5.

10 Guha, R. (1997). Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, p. 67.

11 For a review of some relevant literature, see Merry, S. E. (1991). Law and Colonialism, Law and Society Review, 25:4, pp. 889922.

12 Benton, L. (2002). Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400–1900, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 261.

13 For a discussion based upon research in Sudan, see Massoud, M. F. (2013). Law's Fragile State: Colonial, Authoritarian, and Humanitarian Legacies in Sudan, Cambridge University Press, New York, Chapter 2.

14 Brown, N. J. (1995). Law and Imperialism: Egypt in Comparative Perspective, Law and Society Review, 29:1, pp. 103, 116–118.

15 Rogers, J. D. (1987). Crime, Justice and Society in Colonial Sri Lanka, Curzon Press, London, p. 40.

16 Furnivall, J. S. (1948). Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 31.

17 Washbrook, D. A. (1981). Law, State and Agrarian Society in Colonial India, Modern Asian Studies, 15:3, pp. 651, 665.

18 Freitag, S. B. (1991). Crime in the Social Order of Colonial North India, Modern Asian Studies, 25:2, pp. 227261.

19 Skuy, D. (1998). Macaulay and the Indian Penal Code of 1862: The Myth of the Inherent Superiority and Modernity of the English Legal System Compared to India's Legal System in the Nineteenth Century, Modern Asian Studies, 32:3, p. 514.

20 For an exception, containing a rich comparative account of the rule of law in India and China, see Ocko and Gilmartin, State, Sovereignty, and the People.

21 Goertz, G. (2006). Social Science Concepts: A User's Guide, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, p. 27.

22 See, for example, Barber, N. W. (2004). Must Legalistic Conceptions of the Rule of Law Have a Social Dimension?, Ratio Juris, 17:4, pp. 474488; Cheesman, N. (2014). Law and Order as Asymmetrical Opposite to the Rule of Law, Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 6:1, pp. 96114; Marmor, A. (2004). The Rule of Law and Its Limits, Law and Philosophy, 23:1, pp. 143; O’Donnell, G. (2004). Why the Rule of Law Matters, Journal of Democracy, 15:4, pp. 3246; Selznick, P., ‘Legal Cultures and the Rule of Law’, in Krygier, M. and Czarnota, A. (1999). The Rule of Law after Communism, Ashgate, Dartmouth, pp. 2138; Stewart, C. (2004). The Rule of Law and the Tinkerbell Effect: Theoretical Considerations, Criticisms and Justifications for the Rule of Law, Macquarie Law Journal 7: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/MqLJ/2004/7.html, [accessed 29 April 2015].

23 Waldron, J. (2002). Is the Rule of Law an Essentially Contested Concept (in Florida)?, Law and Philosophy, 21:2, pp. 137164; Collier, D., Hidalgo, F. D. et al. (2006). Essentially Contested Concepts: Debates and Applications, Journal of Political Ideologies, 11:3, pp. 211246. See also Gallie, W. B. (1956). Essentially Contested Concepts, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 56, pp. 167198.

24 Solum, L. B., ‘Equity and the Rule of Law’, in Shapiro, I. (1994). The Rule of Law, New York University Press, New York and London, p. 121.

25 Fallon, R. H. (1997). ‘The Rule of Law’ as a Concept in Constitutional Discourse, Columbia Law Review, 97:1, p. 6.

26 Bedner, A. (2010). An Elementary Approach to the Rule of Law, Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 2, pp. 4874; Craig, P. P. (1997). Formal and Substantive Conceptions of the Rule of Law: An Analytical Framework, Public Law, pp. 467–487. Tamanaha, On the Rule of Law, Chapters 7–8.

27 Hayek, F. A. (1994). The Road to Serfdom, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. 80.

28 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 88.

29 Raz, J., ‘The Rule of Law and Its Virtue’, in Raz, J. (1979). The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 211.

30 Dworkin, R. (1985). A Matter of Principle, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, p. 11.

31 Habermas, J. (1996). Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Polity Press, Cambridge, p. 457.

32 Habermas, J., ‘On the Internal Relation between the Rule of Law and Democracy’, in Cronin, C. and De Greiff, P. (1998). The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 253264. Hampton, J., ‘Democracy and the Rule of Law’, in Shapiro, The Rule of Law, pp. 1344.

33 Horwitz, P., ‘Democracy as the Rule of Law’, in Sarat, A. and Hussain, N. (2010). When Governments Break the Law: The Rule of Law and the Prosecution of the Bush Administration, New York University Press, New York and London, pp. 153181. Nardin, T., ‘Emergency Logic: Prudence, Morality and the Rule of Law’, in Ramraj, V. V. (2008). Emergencies and the Limits of Legality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 97117.

34 For an overview of the phases of invasion, occupation, and colonial administration, see Englehart, N. A. (2011). Liberal Leviathan or Imperial Outpost? J. S. Furnivall on Colonial Rule in Burma, Modern Asian Studies, 45:4, pp. 769782. For a seminal text on government in the colonial and early post-colonial period, see Cady, J. F. (1958). A History of Modern Burma, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London. See also Charney, M. W. (2009). A History of Modern Burma, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; Furnivall, Colonial Policy and Practice; Tinker, H. (1957). The Union of Burma: A Study of the First Years of Independence, Oxford University Press, London.

35 Furnivall, J. S. and Morrison, W. S. (1914). Insein District, Burma Gazetteer, Rangoon, Office of the Superintendent, Government Printing, Burma, Vol. A, p. 114.

36 Tinker, H.Structure of the British Imperial Heritage’, in Braibanti, R. (1966). Asian Bureaucratic Systems Emergent from the British Imperial Tradition, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, p. 49.

37 For an expression of these ideas, see Bentham, J. (1968). The Works of Jeremy Bentham, 11 vols, William Tait; Simpkin, Marshall, Edinburgh and London, Vol. 1, pp. 570–571.

38 The British administered the Shan States in the north indirectly, through an arrangement with hereditary local rulers, which exempted them from jurisdiction.

39 Guyot, J. F. ‘Bureaucratic Transformation in Burma’, in Braibanti, Asian Bureaucratic Systems, p. 377.

40 For some discussion of the court in this period, see U, U Ba (1959). My Burma: The Autobiography of a President, Taplinger, New York, pp. 162173.

41 This article cites four types of reports from this period. From 1892 to 1922, and 1900 to 1922 citations refer to the Upper Burma Rulings (UBR) of the judicial commissioner's court in Mandalay, and Lower Burma Rulings (LBR) of the Chief Court at Rangoon respectively; from 1923 to March 1937, the Indian Law Reports-Rangoon Series (Ran.) of the High Court at Rangoon; and from 1937 to 1947 (excluding 1943 to 1945 due to Japanese occupation), the Rangoon Law Reports (RLR) of the High Court at Rangoon. For details of other available law reports and attendant documents, see Crouch, M. and Cheesman, N., ‘A Short Research Guide to Myanmar's Legal System’, in Crouch, M. and Lindsey, T. (2014). Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart, Oxford, pp. 2132.

42 Only one other academic author writing in English has to date used law reports extensively and systematically. See Zan, Myint (2000). Two Divergent Burmese Rulings on Criminal Defendants’ Confessions: An ‘Ideological Analysis’, University of Tasmania Law Review, 19:2, pp. 335353; Zan, Myint (2000). Of Consummation, Matrimonial Promises, Fault, and Parallel Wives: The Role of Original Texts, Interpretation, Ideology and Policy in Pre- and Post-1962 Burmese Case Law, Columbia Journal of Asian Law, 14:1, pp. 153212; Myint Zan (2004). A Comparison of the First and Fiftieth Year of Independent Burma's Law Reports, Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 35:2, pp. 385426. More recently, see Cheesman, N. (2011). How an Authoritarian Regime Used Special Courts to Defeat Judicial Independence in Burma, Law and Society Review, 45:4, pp. 801830; Cheesman, N., ‘Bodies on the Line in Burma's Criminal Law Reports, 1892–1922’, in Crouch and Lindsey, Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, pp. 77–93; and also Nardi, D. and Lwin Moe, ‘Understanding the Myanmar Supreme Court's Docket: An Analysis of Case Topics from 2007 to 2011’, in Crouch and Lindsey, Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, pp. 95–114. For an overview of contemporary scholarship on Burma, see Selth, A. (2010). Modern Burma Studies: A Survey of the Field, Modern Asian Studies, 44:2, pp. 401440.

43 Kolsky, E. (2005). A Note on the Study of Indian Legal History, Law and History Review, 23:3, pp. 705706.

44 Roque, R. and Wagner, K. A., ‘Introduction: Engaging Colonial Knowledge’, in Roque, R. and Wagner, K. A. (2012). Engaging Colonial Knowledge: Reading European Archives in World History, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke and New York, pp. 4, 5.

45 Roque and Wagner, ‘Introduction’, p. 14.

46 The utilitarian thinking behind the codification of law and its institutionalization in India and subsequently Burma is beyond the scope of this article. The classic text on the topic is Stokes, E. (1959). The English Utilitarians and India, Clarendon Press, Oxford. See also Cheesman, Opposing the Rule of Law, Chapter 2; Hussain, N. (2003). The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 5568; Kolsky, E. (2010). Colonial Justice in British India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 7086; Pitts, J., ‘Jeremy Bentham: Legislator of the World?’ in Schultz, B. and Varouxakis, G. (2005). Utilitarianism and Empire, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, pp. 5791; Skuy, Macaulay and the Indian Penal Code of 1862; Stephen, J. F. (1883). A History of the Criminal Law of England, Macmillan, London, pp. 283367.

47 Brigadier General George White cited in Myint-U, Thant (2001). The Making of Modern Burma, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 196.

48 ‘The British Power in India is like a vast bridge . . . One of its piers is military power: the other is justice.’ James Stephen cited in Mukherjee, M. (2010). India in the Shadows of Empire: A Legal and Political History, 1774–1950, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, p. 72.

49 Huxley, A. (2001). Postivists and Buddhists: The Rise and Fall of Anglo-Burmese Ecclesiastical Law, Law and Social Inquiry, 26:1, p. 139. On the relationship between evangelical and utilitarian thought in legal reform for India, see Hutchins, F. G. (1967). The Illusion of Permanence: British Imperialism in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, Chapter 1.

50 Postema, G. J. (1986). Bentham and the Common Law Tradition, Clarendon, Oxford, p. 424. Stephen enthused that ‘no obscurity or ambiguity worth speaking of’ had been discovered in the Penal Code. Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England, p. 303.

51 Bentham had proposed that he could write legislation for India just as well as he could for his own parish. Pitts, ‘Jeremy Bentham’, p. 69.

52 Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 65.

53 Nonet, P. and Selznick, P. (2001). Law and Society in Transition: Toward Responsive Law, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick and London, p. 35.

54 Massoud, Law's Fragile State, p. 59.

55 Damaška, M. R. (1986). The Faces of Justice and State Authority: A Comparative Approach to the Legal Process, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, p. 101.

56 Saha, J. (2013). Colonization, Criminalization and Complicity: Policing Gambling in Burma c. 1880–1920, South East Asia Research, 21:4, p. 662.

57 King-Emperor v. Nga Po Min, 10 Ran. 511 FB.

58 King-Emperor v. Nga Po, 5 LBR 72.

59 E. E. Mayeth v. King-Emperor, 3 Ran. 612; Abdul Rahman v. King-Emperor, 5 Ran. 53 PC.

60 Nga Po Gaung v. King-Emperor, (1897–1901) 1 UBR 96.

61 Nga Po Tein v. King-Emperor, (1910–13) UBR 149.

62 U Ba Thein & Another v. King-Emperor, 8 Ran. 372.

63 Ba Yin v. King-Emperor, 7 Ran. 759.

64 Mohamed Hayet Mulla v. King-Emperor, 7 Ran. 370.

65 Maung Pu v. Maung Chit Pyu, 5 Ran. 129.

66 Nga Hla U v. King-Emperor, 3 Ran. 139; K. M. Subbaya Naidu v. King-Emperor, 7 Ran. 470.

67 Maung Thwe v. King-Emperor, 3 Ran. 74.

68 Nga Po Chon v. King-Emperor, 4 Ran. 356; Nga U Khine & Others v. King-Emperor, 13 Ran. 1; King-Emperor v. Nga Lun Thuong, 13 Ran. 570 FB.

69 Nga Thet U v. King-Emperor, 2 LBR 115.

70 Hnin Yin (King-Emperor) v. Than Pe, 9 LBR 92.

71 Nga Po Thet v. Queen-Empress, 1 LBR 29; Tha Hmu v. King-Emperor, 2 LBR 206.

72 Shwe Bwin v. King-Emperor, 2 LBR 270.

73 King-Emperor v. Nga Khaing & One, 6 Ran. 531.

74 Tambi v. Appalsawmy (King-Emperor), 9 LBR 208.

75 King-Emperor v. Channing Arnold, 6 LBR 129 FB.

76 King-Emperor v. Kyan Baw, 2 LBR 239.

77 Nga Po Shein & Two Others v. King-Emperor, (1910–13) UBR 152.

78 Nga San Myin v. King-Emperor, (1910–13) UBR 123.

79 H. M. Eusoof & Abdul Khudus v. King-Emperor, 11 LBR 73.

80 King-Emperor v. Po Thin Gyi, 7 Ran. 96.

81 King-Emperor v. Myat Aung, 4 LBR 135.

82 King-Emperor v. Ramara, 4 LBR 103.

83 King-Emperor v. Taik Pyu & Nga Thaik, 5 LBR 21.

84 King-Emperor v. Po Thin, 7 LBR 62.

85 Mohamed Ismail v. King-Emperor, 13 Ran. 754.

86 Metcalf, T. R. (1994). Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 124125.

87 Nga Shwe Ywe v. Crown, 1 LBR 71, 75. See also Crown v. Nga Nyein, 1 LBR 90.

88 Nga Po Nyun v. King-Emperor, 2 LBR 76, 79.

89 Nga Po Than v. King-Emperor, 3 Ran. 156. Despite such warnings, one retired official estimated that in the 1910s and early 1920s some 10,000 people in the delta alone had been jailed for failure to pay bonds. Brown, R. G. (1926). Burma as I Saw It, 1889–1917, Methuen, London, pp. 84–85. On the abuse of police powers in the delta, see Saha, J. (2013). Law, Disorder and the Colonial State: Corruption in Burma, c. 1900, Palgrave Macmillan, London, Chapters 1–2.

90 Crown v. Majun & 12 Others, 1 LBR 120.

91 King-Emperor v. Po Gyi, 3 LBR 114, 115–116.

92 Po Hla v. King-Emperor, 8 LBR 357.

93 Kha Hlaw & Poo Sa v. King-Emperor, 4 LBR 116.

94 King-Emperor v. Po Ni & Others, 3 LBR 116.

95 Crown v. Nga Kyauk Lon, 1 LBR 75.

96 King-Emperor v. Maung Cho & Others, 2 LBR 43. But illegal items uncovered in an improper search could still be used to frame a charge. Maung San Myin v. King-Emperor, 7 Ran. 771; Chwa Hum Htive & Another v. King-Emperor, 11 Ran. 107.

97 Saha, Law, Disorder and the Colonial State, pp. 3–5.

98 Mi Hauk v. King-Emperor, 4 LBR 121, 122.

99 Ah Shee & 22 Others v. King-Emperor, 3 LBR 229, 231, followed in King-Emperor v. Kwe Haw & 16 Others, 4 LBR 213 FB. Kwe Haw was later overturned in Ti Ya & Six Others v. King-Emperor, 8 LBR 38 FB.

100 Queen-Empress v. Nga Lu Gyi & 7 Others, 1 LBR 49, 50.

101 Nga Po Hmi v. Queen-Empress, (1897–1901) 1 UBR 29.

102 Tan Sein (a) Maung Saing v. Crown, 1 LBR 173.

103 V. S. M. Moideen Brothers v. Eng Thaung & Co., 9 LBR 45, 47.

104 Mawzanagyi v. King-Emperor, 8 Ran. 511.

105 May, L. (2011). Global Justice and Due Process, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Chapter 2. See Maine, H. (1883). Dissertations on Early Law and Custom, John Murray, London, p. 389.

106 Thompson, E. P. (1975). Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act, Allen Lane, London, pp. 258269.

107 A survey of precolonial law in Burma is beyond the scope of this article. For an overview, see Huxley, A. (2001). ‘Pre-Colonial Burmese Law: Conical Hat and Shoulder Bag’, IIAS Newsletter Online, 25: http://www.iias.nl/iiasn, [accessed 30 April 2015]. On precolonial legal texts and their interpretation, see Lammerts, D. C. (2013). Narratives of Buddhist Legislation: Textual Authority and Legal Heterodoxy in 17th–19th Century Burma, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 44:1, pp. 118144.

108 Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 134.

109 Deposition to the Burma Reforms Committee (1922), cited in Maung Maung (1963). Law and Custom in Burma and the Burmese Family, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, p. 24.

110 Harvey, G. E. (1946). British Rule in Burma, 1824–1942, Faber and Faber, London, p. 34.

111 Ocko and Gilmartin, State, Sovereignty, and the People, p. 69. See also Mukherjee, India in the Shadows of Empire, pp. 110–113.

112 See Aung-Thwin, M. (2011). The Return of the Galon King: History, Law, and Rebellion in Colonial Burma, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio.

113 See, for instance, the accounts of cases in Collis, M. (1953). Trials in Burma, Faber and Faber, London, Chapters 4, 7.

114 Thompson, Whigs and Hunters, p. 263.

115 Raz, ‘The Rule of Law and Its Virtue’, p. 211.

116 Pettit, P. (1997). Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 65, 174177. See also Bingham, T. (2010). The Rule of Law, Penguin Books, London, pp. 6667.

117 See, for instance, Darian-Smith, E. (2010). Religion, Race, Rights: Landmarks in the History of Modern Anglo-American Law, Hart, Oxford and Portland; Kolsky, Colonial Justice in British India; Levine, P. (2003). Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire, Routledge, New York and London; Saha, Law, Disorder and the Colonial State, Chapter 3; Wiener, M. J. (2009). An Empire on Trial: Race, Murder, and Justice under British Rule, 1870–1935, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; and, for an early classic, Arendt, H. (1966). The Origins of Totalitarianism, George Allen and Unwin, London, pp. 158221.

118 Kolsky, E. (2010). ‘The Body Evidencing the Crime’: Rape on Trial in Colonial India, 1860–1947, Gender and History, 22:1, p. 116.

119 Published, since the case appeared in the Burma Law Journal of the same year, and in Herbert Dunkley's 1928 digest of rulings, but not officially reported.

120 Queen-Empress v. Nga Han Shin, (1892–96) 1 UBR 50; King-Emperor v. Po Ba, 8 LBR 143; King-Emperor v. Mi Wa, 8 LBR 534; G. C. Siricar v. King-Emperor, 3 Ran. 68.

121 Nga Aung Dwe v. Queen-Empress, (1892–96) 1 UBR 229; Queen-Empress v. Nga Chit Kyu, (1897–1901) 1 UBR 325.

122 King-Emperor v. Nga Po Saw, (1897–1901) 1 UBR 328; Nga Ku & Two v. Queen-Empress, (1897–1901) 1 UBR 330; Crown v. Nga San Hlaing, 1 LBR 205; Crown v. Nga Chan Mya, 1 LBR 297; King-Emperor v. Nga Nge, (1904–06) 1 UBR Pen Co. 17; Nga Shwe Thwe v. King-Emperor, (1907–09) 1 UBR Pen. Co. 1; Nga Te Hla v. King-Emperor, (1907–09) 1 UBR Pen. Co. 11; King-Emperor v. Asgar Ali, (1907–09) 1 UBR Pen. Co. 27; Khalilur Rahman v. King-Emperor, 11 Ran. 213; and King-Emperor v. Nga Ni Ta, (1902–03) 1 UBR Pen. Co. 15, which describes a girl as being ‘persuaded’ into ‘a condition of concubinage’ (at the age of 16).

123 Kolsky, Colonial Justice in British India, pp. 199–202. Neill, J. (2011). ‘This Is a Most Disgusting Case’: Imperial Policy, Class and Gender in the ‘Rangoon Outrage’ of 1899, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 12:1; http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_colonialism_and_colonial_history, [accessed 20 June 2015].

124 As discussed in Saha, J. (2010). The Male State: Colonialism, Corruption and Rape Investigations in the Irrawaddy Delta c. 1900, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 47:3, pp. 343376.

125 King-Emperor v. Po Gyi, 3 LBR 114.

126 Nga Po Tha & Two v. King-Emperor, (1917–20) UBR 54.

127 Nga Po Kyaw & Three v. King-Emperor, (1902–03) 1 UBR Pen. Co. 1, 2.

128 Nga Po Thaw v. King-Emperor, (1910–13) UBR 155.

129 Nga Po Thaw, 155.

130 Saha, Law, Disorder and the Colonial State, pp. 117–118.

131 Ikeya, C. (2011). Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma, University of Hawai‘i Press, Honolulu, p. 47.

132 Harriden, J. (2012). The Authority of Influence: Women and Power in Burmese History, NIAS Press, Copenhagen, p. 113.

133 Nga Po Thaw, 155–156.

134 Kolsky, E. (2005). Codification and the Rule of Colonial Difference: Criminal Procedure in British India, Law and History Review, 23:3, pp. 631683. See Chatterjee, P. (1993). The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 1618.

135 Kolsky, Colonial Justice in British India, pp. 72–73.

136 Geertsema, J., ‘Exceptions, Bare Life and Colonialism’, in Ramraj, Emergencies and the Limits of Legality, pp. 354–356.

137 Chatterjee says that it was, but, like other scholars of British empire, is imprecise about the rule of law's ontology. Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments, p. 22.

138 On the classing of the two as ‘reservations’ to the rule of law, see Halliday and Karpik, ‘Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony’, pp. 4, 12–13.

139 Agamben, G. (2005). State of Exception, Chicago University Press, Chicago, pp. 23, 31.

140 On the nationalist struggle for independence in Burma, see, in particular, Moscotti, A. D. (1974). British Policy and the Nationalist Movement in Burma, 1917–1937, University Press of Hawai‘i, Honolulu.

141 See, for instance, San, Aung (1971). General Aung San: Speeches, 1945–1947, Sarpay Beikman Press, Rangoon, p. 83; Thakin E Kyi, cited in Maung, Chit (1939?). The Taste of Prison, Journal Kyaw, Rangoon, p. 81 (both in Burmese). On the use of emergency measures in Burma, see Aung-Thwin, M., ‘Discourses of Emergency in Colonial and Postcolonial Burma’, in Ramraj, V. V. and Thiruvengadam, A. K. (2010). Emergency Powers in Asia: Exploring the Limits of Legality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 187212.

142 The Union of Burma (Continued Observance of Laws) Order, 1948, and the Union Judiciary Act, 1948, gave effect to pre-existing laws.

143 Lev, D. S., ‘The Criminal Regime: Criminal Process in Indonesia’, in Rafael, V. L. (1999). Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, p. 178.

144 Tinsa Maw Naing v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon, 1950 BLR (SC) 17, 25. From 1948, the law reports became known as the Burma Law Reports (BLR). Citations hereafter refer to rulings from the High Court (HC), and the Supreme Court (SC), which became the court of final appeal. For a summary of the changing structure and nomenclature of Burma's upper courts, see Myint Zan, A Comparison of the First and Fiftieth Year of Independent Burma's Law Reports, pp. 386–387. A chart of courts and rulings is available in Maung, U Than (2002). A Background History of Myanmar Rulings, Judicial Journal, 1:13, p. 54 (article in Burmese; chart mostly in English). For details of the heads of apex courts and their nomenclature since 1947, see Myint Zan, ‘The “New” Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal: Marginal Improvement for Judicial Independence or More of the Same?’, in Cheesman, N., Skidmore, M. and Wilson, T. (2012). Myanmar's Transition: Openings, Obstacles and Opportunities, ISEAS, Singapore, pp. 256257.

145 Callahan, M. P. (2002). State Formation in the Shadow of the Raj: Violence, Warfare and Politics in Colonial Burma, Southeast Asian Studies, 39:4, p. 535.

146 U Htwe (a) A. E. Madari v. U Tun Ohn & One, 1948 BLR (SC) 541, 552.

147 Callahan, M. P. (2003). Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, p. 135.

148 Maung Maung (1969). Burma and General Ne Win, Religious Affairs Department, Rangoon, pp. 209210.

149 U Hla Aung (1961). The Law of Preventive Detention in Burma, Journal of the International Commission of Jurists, 3:1, p. 47.

150 Saw Maung Dauk cited in Tekkathoe Myat Thu (2012). Parliamentary Sights, Sarpay Beikman Press, Yangon, p. 51 (in Burmese).

151 Art. 25(1), Constitution of the Union of Burma, 1947.

152 Zan, Myint (2000). Judicial Independence in Burma: Constitutional History, Actual Practice and Future Prospects, Southern Cross University Law Review, 4, pp. 2224. Tinker, The Union of Burma, p. 29.

153 U Htwe, 560–561. Both Ba U and E Maung were members of the constitution-drafting committee. Maung Maung, Burma's Constitution, Appendix V. Maung Maung's monograph, while offering a comprehensive summation of the constitution's contents, contains only a short section on its drafting. For a more detailed account of the constitutional drafting process and participants, see Win, U Kyaw, Han, U Mya and Hlaing, U Thein (1990). National Race Affairs and the 1947 Constitution, 2 vols, Universities Press, Yangon, Vol. 2, Chapters 8–10 (in Burmese).

154 V. E. Rm. N. Rm. Kasi Viswanathan Chettyar v. Official Assignee & One, 1958 BLR (SC) 74.

155 Cheesman, N., ‘The Incongruous Return of Habeas Corpus to Myanmar’, in Cheesman, N., Skidmore, M. and Wilson, T. (2010). Ruling Myanmar: From Cyclone Nargis to National Elections, ISEAS, Singapore, p. 95. See also Crouch, M., ‘The Common Law and Constitutional Writs: Prospects for Accountability in Myanmar’, in Crouch and Lindsey, Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, pp. 141–157.

156 Bo San Lin v. Commissioner of Police & One, 1948 BLR (SC) 372.

157 Maung Maung, Burma's Constitution, p. 99.

158 Ma Lone v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 8, 9.

159 Tinker, The Union of Burma, p. 142.

160 Hansard (1954). Chamber of Deputies, Union Parliament, Government of the Union of Burma, Rangoon, Vol. 3, pp. 104–109 (in Burmese).

161 Lim Lyan Hwat (a) Lim Sway Gaung/Lim Kwin Kee (a) Htwa Kong (a) Htwa Tong v. The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs & One/ The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs & One, 1960 BLR (SC) 128, 129.

162 As discussed in Christian, W. (1951). Burma's New Constitution and Supreme Court, Tulane Law Review, 26:1, pp. 49–56.

163 Daw Aye Nyunt v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 5, 7.

164 Pakiya Ammal v. Deputy Commissioner, Hanthawaddy & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 35.

165 Ma Mya Khin v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1950 BLR (SC) 8.

166 Ma Khin Than v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 13, 17.

167 Ma Than Sint v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 1.

168 Ma Ahmar v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 39.

169 Bo Aye Ko v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & 2 Others, 1950 BLR (SC) 181.

170 U Zan v. Deputy Commissioner, Insein & Another, 1951 BLR (SC) 188; Thet Tun v. Deputy Commissioner, Shwebo & Another, 1952 BLR (SC) 33.

171 Ah Nywe v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & Another, 1948 BLR (SC) 737, 740.

172 Lee Kyin Su (a) U Su v. Commissioner of Excise & 3 Others, 1957 BLR (SC) 5, 9.

173 Maung Ant Bwe & One v. Union of Burma, 1948 BLR (HC) 863; Union of Burma v. Ah Shin & 2 Others, 1955 BLR (HC) 317; U Ba Aye & 3 Others v. Union of Burma, 1958 BLR (HC) 548; Bishu (a) Ma Kyin Nu v. Union of Burma, 1953 BLR (HC) 110 (in Burmese).

174 Hasan Ali v. Secretary, Ministry of Immigration & National Registration & One, 1959 BLR (SC) 187.

175 Sri Sawarmal v. Union of Burma (U Thein Maung), 1954 BLR (HC) 331.

176 Courts General Letter No. 4/1956, Supreme Court, Rangoon, 20 January 1956 (in Burmese).

177 Maung Kyaw Aye v. Union of Burma, 1953 BLR (HC) 114.

178 B. K. Halder v. S. Kr. Chelliah Pillay & Others, 1952 BLR (HC) 340.

179 T. S. Mohamed & One v. Union of Burma, 1953 BLR (HC) 107.

180 U Ba Din v. Union of Burma, 1956 BLR (HC) 166.

181 Khaw Taw & One v. Union of Burma, 1948 BLR (HC) 310; Maung Aye Maung v. Union of Burma, 1956 BLR (HC) 273.

182 Sobika Rahman v. Union of Burma, 1952 BLR (HC) 385.

183 Ali Meah v. Union of Burma, 1954 BLR (SC) 65.

184 U Ba Khin v. Union of Burma, 1954 BLR (HC) 191.

185 Maung Nyi & One v. Union of Burma, 1952 BLR (HC) 282.

186 Only in 1957–58 did the government initiate inquiries, and bring one group of paramilitaries to court after a particularly notorious and gruesome episode, discussed in Callahan, M. P., ‘The Sinking Schooner: Murder and the State in Independent Burma, 1948–58’, in Trocki, C. A. (1998). Gangsters, Democracy, and the State in Southeast Asia, Cornell Southeast Asia Program, New York, pp. 1738. The case was reported as Chit Hlaing, Htun Waing, Thein Aung & 19 v. Union of Burma, 1958 BLR (HC) 582 (in Burmese and English).

187 Maung Hla Gyaw v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1948 BLR (SC) 764. On the charges brought against the alleged plotters and their subsequent sentences, see Maung Maung (1962). A Trial in Burma: The Assassination of Aung San, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.

188 Daw Mya Tin v. Commissioner of Police, Rangoon & One, 1949 BLR (SC) 82.

189 U Ba Yi & 8 Others v. Officer-in-Charge of Jail, Yamethin, 1950 BLR (SC) 130.

190 Maung Kyaw Aye & 6 v. Taunggoo District Commissioner & Another, 1957 BLR (SC) 49 (in Burmese).

191 Maung Tin Aye v. District Commissioner, Pakokku & One, 1957 BLR (SC) 17 (in Burmese).

192 Maung Maung (1962). Lawyers and Legal Education in Burma, Journal of International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 11:1, p. 285.

193 For a discussion of events, see Badgley, J. H. (1958). Burma's Political Crisis, Pacific Affairs, 31:4, pp. 336351.

194 U Nu (1975). U Nu: Saturday's Son, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, p. 327; Callahan, M. P. (1996). ‘The Origins of Military Rule in Burma’, PhD thesis, Cornell University, New York, pp. 476–477.

195 Revolutionary Council (1965). Burma: Administrative and Social Affairs, 1962–63, Office of the Director of Information, Rangoon, p. 34 (in Burmese).

196 Government of the Union of Burma (1960). Is Trust Vindicated?, Director of Information, Rangoon, p. 62.

197 See, for instance, Editor, ‘Parliamentary Democracy’, The Guardian, 6 October 1959; U Hla Aung (1960). A Republic and the Rule of Law, Burma Law Institute Journal, 2:1, p. 2; U Tin, ‘The Rule of Law’, The Guardian, 1–2 June 1960, pp. 31–32.

198 Lay, Ko Ko (1960). What Is Cocos Island, Khin Maung Yi and Sons Press, Rangoon, p. 3943; Maung Chit Yi (1960). Section Five from Cocos Island, U Saw Lwin, Rangoon, p. 132 (both in Burmese).

199 U Nu (1959). Address Given by AFPFL (Clean) Chairman U Nu at the 69th May Day Celebration, News and Information Department, AFPFL (Clean), pp. 10–20 (in Burmese).

200 Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 21/58, section 2.

201 Government of the Union of Burma (1959). Excerpts from the Record of the Convention of Security Councils Held at the Armed Forces Convocation Hall, Rangoon on 21, 22, and 23 April 1959, Government Printing and Stationery, Rangoon, p. 53 (in Burmese).

202 See Bigelow, L. S. (1960). The 1960 Election in Burma, Far Eastern Survey, 29:5, pp. 7074; Butwell, R. and Von der Mehden, F. (1960). The 1960 Election in Burma, Pacific Affairs, 33:2, pp. 144157.

203 Yoe Bun Hwei (a) Kek Nek Hwei La v. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the Union of Burma & Others, 1960 BLR (SC) 175; Lim Hkwei Ya (a) Yaun Ei v. Minister of Home Affairs, 1960 BLR (SC) 189 (both in Burmese).

204 Lim Lyan Hwat, 132.

205 Mahmud, T. (1993). Praetorianism and Common Law in Post-Colonial Settings: Judicial Responses to Constitutional Breakdowns in Pakistan, Utah Law Review, 4, pp. 12341242; Newberg, P. R. (1995). Judging the State: Courts and Constitutional Politics in Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 5759.

206 Han, U Mya and Hlaing, U Thein (eds) (1991). Burma's Politics 1958–1962, Universities Press, Rangoon, p. 213 (in Burmese).

207 Zan, Myint (1995). U Myint Thein M.A., LLB, LLD, Australian Law Journal, 69, p. 226.

208 Upham, F. K., ‘The Illusory Promise of the Rule of Law’, in A. Sajó (2004). Human Rights with Modesty: The Problem of Universalism, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden and Boston, p. 280. See also Darian-Smith, E. (2008). Precedents of Injustice: Thinking About History in Law and Society Scholarship, Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 41, p. 62.

209 Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, Harvester Press, Hertfordshire, p. 136.

210 Roque and Wagner, ‘Introduction’, pp. 7, 9.

211 Roque and Wagner, ‘Introduction’, p. 14.

212 As discussed in Cheesman, What Does the Rule of Law Have to Do with Democratisation (in Myanmar)?

* Thank you to Craig Reynolds and Terry Halliday for their comments on versions of this article, as well as to Bronwen Douglas, and to colleagues in the Pacific and Asian History seminar series at the Australian National University, for questions and suggestions in response to a talk on this topic. Special thanks to Saowapha Viravong and all the staff at the National Library of Australia, and to Thant Thaw Kaung and Ma Win Win at the Myanmar Book Centre, for their help in finding and acquiring materials on which the article draws. Lastly, thank you to the article's anonymous reviewers for their thorough comments, which gave me the opportunity to rethink arguments, re-examine sources, and explore new material with which to clarify and amplify its contents.

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