Myanmar’s military regime has amended the Bar Council Act, effectively putting the council back under the control of the junta.
Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on October 28 introduced two new amendments to the Bar Council Act, abolishing the right of lawyers to elect the council and so enabling the regime to appoint the legal body.
Under the amendment, the Attorney-General and Chief Justice of the Union will appoint members to the council.
“Lawyers have lost the right to elect members to represent them. The council has been put back under the total control of the regime like it was in the past,” said a legal expert who wished to stay anonymous.
As the Bar Council is authorized to issue and revoke advocate licenses and to regulate advocates, lawyers are likely to face tougher restrictions under the amended law, said legal experts.
“There will be restrictions and controls on lawyers applying for advocacy. And there will also be politically-motivated restrictions and instructions to existing advocates. [The amendment] will affect the freedom of advocates,” said another legal expert.
The Bar Council Act was first passed in 1929 under British colonial rule and specified that council members were to be elected democratically.
However, after the Bar Council advocated for lawyers to participate in protests against the former military regime during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the then junta’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) amended the act. The SPDC amended two articles in 1989 to say that council members could be chosen only by the Chief Justice of the Union.