More re­search needed into EAO jus­tice: re­ports

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - SHOON NAING shoonnaing@mm­times.com

Re­search pub­lished by the Asia Foun­da­tion ex­am­ines au­thor­ity, courts, laws, polic­ing meth­ods and ac­cepted pun­ish­ments in eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions’ ter­ri­tory.

OUT­SIDE gov­ern­ment con­trol and sub­ject to the whims of nu­mer­ous, of­ten armed and com­pet­ing ac­tors, the en­force­ment of jus­tice in eth­nic ar­eas is a tu­mul­tuous af­fair, ac­cord­ing to a new report by the Asia Foun­da­tion.

En­ti­tled “Armed Ac­tors and Jus­tice Pro­vi­sion in Myan­mar”, the report ex­am­ines au­thor­ity, courts, laws, reg­u­la­tions, polic­ing meth­ods and ac­cepted pun­ish­ments in eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions’ ter­ri­tory as well as ar­eas un­der mixed con­trol.

The report, au­thored by two in­de­pen­dent re­searchers, calls for boost­ing the ef­fi­ciency of jus­tice in eth­nic armed ar­eas, but adds that mea­sures must be taken in a sen­si­tive, in­di­vid­u­alised ap­proach.

“Uni­lat­er­ally strength­en­ing and ap­ply­ing the gov­ern­ment’s jus­tice sys­tem in eth­nic ar­eas may lead only to misunderstanding and fur­ther griev­ances,” the report says. “There is al­ready a pro­found lack of trust in gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions in many eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly those who have long lived un­der EAA [eth­nic armed army] con­trol or had bad ex­pe­ri­ence with the Tat­madaw or other state au­thor­i­ties.”

The report was de­vel­oped as part of the Asia Foun­da­tion’s So­cial Ser­vices in Con­tested Ar­eas in Myan­mar se­ries, and pro­vides in­sight into some of the largest eth­nic armed groups in the coun­try, in­clud­ing the Karen Na­tional Union, the Demo­cratic Karen Benev­o­lent Army, the Pa-O Na­tional Army and the United Wa State Party.

Re­search was done in south­east Myan­mar, and Shan and Kachin states, in ar­eas con­trolled by both eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions (EAOs) party to cease­fire agree­ments and oth­ers that are still in con­flict with the state.

At the launch of the report, the au­thors ex­plained that their study de­tails how vil­lages, and vil­lage-based mech­a­nisms, are the foun­da­tion of sta­bil­ity and or­der for civil­ians in most ar­eas they vis­ited.

“We fo­cus on in­sti­tu­tions and prac­tices for or­di­nary forms of crimes,” said Kim Jol­liffe, one of two report au­thors.

The report also ex­am­ines how dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal and ju­di­cial sys­tems in th­ese ar­eas co­op­er­ate with and elab­o­rate on one another, he added.

Report co-au­thor Brian McCar­tan said the re­search found that peo­ple in EAO-con­trolled re­gions said they pre­ferred an EAO jus­tice sys­tem to that of the state be­cause it was ad­min­is­tered by peo­ple of the same eth­nic group. De­spite this, he added, re­forms to th­ese EAO jus­tice sys­tems are needed to pro­vide more ro­bust pro­tec­tions for lo­cal peo­ple.

As the sys­tems and or­gan­i­sa­tions of eth­nic armed groups are of­ten com­plex, the au­thors rec­om­mended that more re­search into the topic be un­der­taken, par­tic­u­larly in light of the coun­try’s on­go­ing peace process.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Jol­liffe, main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity and or­der in non-gov­ern­ment­con­trolled ar­eas through­out the peace process will de­pend on sys­tems and in­sti­tu­tions cre­ated and ad­min­is­tered by EAOs.

The report de­scribes it­self as a ba­sic, foun­da­tional study and notes in its con­clu­sion that many gaps in the body of re­search into the topic still re­main.

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