Supporting the Myanmar Lawyers Network

In August and October, the CEELI Institute continued it efforts to provide organizational assistance and practical advocacy skills training to the Myanmar Lawyers Network (MLN), an independent group of Burmese lawyers who are committed to providing pro bono legal assistance to those in need, and who have championed causes of political freedoms, human rights, freedom of expression and land rights for marginalized communities. Multiple programs were held by the Institute in both Yangon and Mandalay. This project is implemented together with the Burma Center Prague, and with support from the Czech Foreign Ministry.

The MLN is led by some of Burma’s most experienced defense lawyers, including many of whom are former political prisoners. Cases that the MLN takes on often include representation of poor village communities trying to assert legal claims to land —which also typically involves fighting off attempted “land grabbing. Other cases involve protecting the right of freedom to assemble.

In addition to their pro bono efforts, the leaders of the MLN are also committed to providing professional development and support services for its own membership—now numbering in the hundreds, and including the newest generation of young Burmese lawyers. The MLN fills important gaps in training and mentoring young lawyers in a country where legal education skills (especially for the younger generation) are low and where there is little access to professional support. The need for trainings and education and the lawyers’ enthusiasm are vast. The Institute is supporting the MLN with programs providing technical skills training designed to improve courtroom skills, case preparation abilities and legal research skills of the next generation of young lawyers.  The Institute is also working closely with MLN members to develop a cadre of talented young lawyers who will act as trainers in their own communities. Much of our August and October efforts focused on bringing along this core group of trainers. Institute programs are also focused on the practical steps necessary to improve the organizational capacity of the MLN, and assist it in achieving its own goals of delivering an expanded program of in-service trainings and public outreach.

CEELI Institute Reports:  “Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Myanmar“

Working closely with the International Legal Assistance Network (ILAC), the CEELI Institute recently co-authored a report entitled “Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Burma,“ published in October 2014.  The report was principally authored by William D. Meyer, Chair of the Institute’s International Advisory Board and is based on ILAC/CEELI assessments, interviews, surveys and experiences from our training and assistance projects in Burma. The report provides in-depth background on the current state of the legal profession in Myanmar, and details the challenges facing the legal community there as it emerges from decades of repression. Ultimately, the report makes a strong case for continued engagement with Myanmar’s legal community, which will be a key element for the defense of human rights, and the establishment of the rule of law in that country.

Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Myanmar