Group calls for greater legal training for village administrators as key to rule of law

February 12, 2018

WCRP: On January 12th 2018, the Mon State Rule of Law and Justice Coordination Team (RLJC) held an event in Mawlamyine with local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to identify and discuss the challenges to rule of law in Mon State.

According to many of those who attended, a lack of legal knowledge among village administrators is a primary problem. Village administrators are often the first point of contact for those seeking justice, and poor understanding of legal processes and obligations can be damaging to rule of law.

This is particularly the case for issues of sexual violence. Noting the recent increase in reports of sexual violence against children, Daw Khin Than Htwe, Chair of the Mon State Women and Children Upgrade Committee (MWCUC), explains, “small problems can become bigger, as most village administrators do not understand about laws regarding child rights and violations. It is very important for them to have legal knowledge and to deal with cases properly to get justice for each citizen. The village administrator and their team’s relationship with citizens is very close, therefore they are the first to hear of such cases.”

Many families who do report sexual violence to village administrators report a lack of access to adequate justice. A lawyer from Legal Clinic Myanmar said, “we have some information and have also seen that in many cases where crimes are committed, the administrator pressures the victim’s family not to go to the police and to instead negotiate [a settlement] at the administration office.”

Moreover, participants felt that rule of law is also hampered by factors such as corruption in local government departments and staff, particularly among local police departments who process cases, citing a lack of respect for the rights of local people. 

“There is no rule of law as staff from the government are corrupt against their own citizens. If we talk about corruption, we have to start talking about people’s spirits. If we could change each staff’s thoughts or spirit, rule of law would automatically be available,” said a male representative from the event.

Participants at the event recommended that the government implement a regional model for solving these challenges, which would see village administrators taking formal legal action against perpetrators.

According to Daw Khin Than Htwe, this comes down to providing better education for village administrators on rule of law. “The administrators never attend our events, even though Mon State ministers and Members of Parliament accept our invitation and join us. Administrators are the first point of travel on the path to rule of law. I would like to suggest that if the group [RLJC] invites them and provides legal training, they would be more likely to join.”

 

 

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