Prospects for Justice in Myanmar – Does the New Political Reality Offer Opportunities for Addressing Human Rights Violations?

In the years immediately before the 2015 election, there was a palpable sense of waiting among those working in Burmese civil society. Many of their plans depended on one or two critical developments to take hold: the NLD coming to power and the signing of a nationwide ceasefi re agreement. Now, both long-hoped-for events have happened,1 and Myanmar’s transition to democratic rule continues to move slowly forward.

But certain shortcomings in Myanmar’s new political reality mean that activists, human rights defenders, and community workers are scrambling to understand current conditions and craft strategies to address the issues they care about in the delicate atmosphere of a nation coming to terms with the fact that an NLD-led government is not everything they had hoped for, though still better than those of past.

Transitional justice has always been one of the topics on reserve for later discussion—to be talked about once there was peace, once there was a new government, once there was constitutional reform. Many in civil society who have been seeking justice for past violations, often in the form of reparations for the most vulnerable victims, have been waiting for an NLD-led government in order to advocate for their proposals. Th e presence of former political prisoners in positions of government, including dozens in Parliament, has raised expectations that some sort of eff ort to address past violations, if only through offi  cial acknowledgments, would be possible at the national level. Unfortunately, the situation is not so clear-cut. Several factors stand in the way of pursuing a comprehensive justice response in the current context.

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