14:00-14:50 “Opposing the Rule of Law in Myanmar: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order” by Dr. Nick Cheesman (ANU)
14:50-15:00 Comments by Rohan D’Souza (Kyoto University)
15:00–15:40 General discussion
16:00 – 16:50 “How in Myanmar “National Races” Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya” by Dr. Nick Cheesman
16:50 – 17:00 Comments by Masao Imamura (Yamagata University)
17:00 – 17:10 Comments by Kazuto Ikeda (Osaka University)
17:10 – 18:00 General discussion
Nick Cheesman is Fellow at the Department of Political & Social Change, Australian National University (ANU).
1. “Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order”
The rule of law is a political ideal today endorsed and promoted worldwide. Or is it? In this presentation I argue that Myanmar is a country in which the rule of law is “lexically present but semantically absent.” Charting ideas and practices from British colonial rule through military dictatorship to the present day, I call upon political and legal theory to explain how and why institutions animated by a concern for law and order oppose the rule of law. Empirically grounded in both Burmese and English sources, including criminal trial records and wide ranging official documents, this presentation offers a study of courts in contemporary Myanmar. It sheds new light on the politics of courts during dark times and sharply illuminates the tension between the demand for law and the imperatives of order.
2. “How in Myanmar “National Races” Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya”
The idea of “national races” or taingyintha has animated brutal conflict in Myanmar over who or what is “Rohingya.” But because the term is translated from Burmese inconsistently, and because its usage is contingent, its peculiar significance for political speech and action has been lost in work on Myanmar by scholars writing in English. Out of concern that Myanmar’s contemporary politics cannot be understood without reckoning with taingyintha, in this presentation I give national races their due. Adopting a genealogical method, I trace the episodic emergence of taingyintha from colonial times to the present. I examine attempts to order national races taxonomically, and to marry the taxonomy with a juridical project to dominate some people and elide others through a citizenship regime in which membership in a national race has surpassed other conditions for membership in the political community “Myanmar.” Consequently, people who reside in Myanmar but are collectively denied citizenship–like anyone identifying or identified as Rohingya–pursue claims to be taingyintha so as to rejoin the community. Ironically, the surpassing symbolic and juridical power of national races is for people denied civil and political rights at once their problem and their solution.
Koichi Fujita, CSEAS, Kyoto University (kfujita[at]cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp; 075-753-7321 or 080-3104-2312)