Set the Torturers Free: Transitional Justice and Peace vs Justice Dilemma in Burma/Myanmar

Author: Michał Lubina
Institution: Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland)
Year of publication: 2018
Source: Show
Pages: 77–96
DOI Address:
PDF: ppsy/47-1/ppsy2018106.pdf

Burma/Myanmar seems to be a perfect ground for transitional justice with both long-failed transitions to democracy that seemed to succeed in 2015 finally and smouldering civil war taking place there since 1948 (since the 1990s limited to Borderlands). Unfortunately, the political realities in Burma/Myanmar make it unlikely, if not impossible, for transitional justice to be applicable in Burma/Myanmar. The victorious in 2015 elections democratic opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power thanks to the political deal with the former military government and is consequently being forced to cohabitate politically with the army that still holds critical political checks over the government. It made NLD’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi to conduct moderate domestic policy without trying to charge the generals for their former crimes. In this circumstances, transitional justice is unwanted by mainstream political actors (NLD, the army) and seen as threatening to peace by many in the Myanmar society. This approach firmly places Burma/Myanmar on one side of the ‘peace vs justice’ dilemma. It answers the “torturer problem”, one of the central problems of transitional justice – how to deal with members of the previous regime which violated human rights – in ‘old fashion’ way, by granting them full amnesty. As such Burma/Myanmar case also falsifies an optimistic claim that transitional justice is necessary for political reforms.


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