U KHIN MAUNG
(A retired diplomat)
First and foremost, please allow me to assert, with all my sincerity and honesty, that law is so delicate, so demanding, so difficult and so wide a subject that nobody could claim that he knows all the best about the laws. As such, there is a common and simple concept that “a good lawyer is the one who knows where to find the law, applicable and relevant to the case”. Anyway, let’s study what law means? In essence, “law” is the regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of politically. organized society or through social pressure, backed by force, in such a society. It is the legal system.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the term “law” as follows:
“Law is the whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey.” According to a great philosopher, Aristotle, “law is a form of order, and good law means therefore good order”. Generally speaking, there are two main kinds of laws: Local law or domestic law and international law. In brief, domestic law means the law of or the law relating to one’s own country. It is also known as the law of the land. International law is ‘’the legal principles governing the relationships between nations, more modernly, the law of international relations, embracing not only nations, but also such participants as international organizations, multinational corporations, non governmental organizations and even individuals (such as those who invoke their human rights or commit war crimes.)
Some significant legal terms and their meanings
The rule of law
“The rule of law”- This phrase means equality before the law, fair lay, uniformity of laws for all private citizen and public official alike. It also means that disputes and differences will be taken to the courts and peacefully settled. Law and order is often equated with the rule of law. Therefore, I would like to say that law is a necessity for the citizens, for the organizations, for the associations, for the states etc. So as to enjoy peace, progress, prosperity, harmony and development, such as economic development, technological development etc. Law here means both the law of the land or municipal law and international law.
The incumbent government of our union is a democratically government. As such, we can say the incumbent government is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. Accordingly, our government is doing magnificent and formidable tasks for all the people. For example, convening twenty-first century Panglong Peace Conference, setting up of Rakhine State advisory commission to address Rakhine issue among so many other splendid tasks. And in doing its tasks, the government is doing its best to win the hearts and minds of the people, making the rule of law prevail, with no corruption, with no favouritism, with no nepotism, with no cronyisim in its administration. Only when a government is carrying out its functions or doing administration in accordance with the law, or in other words, only when the rule of law and justice prevail, that government can be recognized as a good government, with clean governance.
In fact, and in reality, nobody is above the law. With the principle of equality before the law, the good government ensures that the law treats everyone all he same, with no privileged class or under-privileged. Simply put, all men .are equal in the eyes of the law. And we have such terms as diplomatic privileges, and diplomatic immunities in diplomacy. Strictly speaking, diplomatic immunity or exemption means only immunity or exemption from the legal procedure, not immunity or exemption from the legal liability. For example, if a diplomat or a diplomatic agent commits an offence in the receiving state where he is carrying out his diplomatic functions, he will be treated as “persona non grata, meaning unacceptable person. And that diplomat will be sent back to the sending state. So, we can see that the rule of law prevails in any situation, where there is a violation of law.
As regard, “the rule of law, I would like to quote a passage or extract from the book entitled “Law and Custom in Burma and the Burmese Family” written by the world renowned author, Dr. Maung Maung. It reads as follows:
“The first essential condition for making democracy secure in our lives is to base all our activities firmly on the rule of law.”
Well, you know ‘’the rule of law” is so wide a subject to explain only in a single write-up. We have an old saying in our Myanmar language. If freely interpreted, I think, it may read “a man may not live hundred years long; but he may be faced with over hundred cases or problems. Strictly speaking, whenever there is a case or a problem, it must be settled in accordance with law. Thus, we can see “how law matters so much.”
Even in international conflicts or wars, the rule of law, international law at that, is quite essential. So as to give humanitarian treatment to a wounded soldier of a party to the conflict, he must be collected and humanely treated by the other party. The wounded soldier must not be shot dead. In this regard, there have been multilateral treaties or conventions well prescribed and propagated since the days of yore. For example, “Geneva Convention on the treatment of the wounded soldier at sea, Geneva Convention on the treatment of wounded soldier on land, etc.
Rule of law and law and order—these two principles are quite similar to each other. Where there is no rule of law, there will be no order. Instead, there will be anarchy, political unrest, social unrest, chaos and confusion. So, the rule of law is a necessity for a nation to enjoy peace, progress, prosperity and development. Where there is no rule of law, there will be no peace, no prosperity, no progress and no development. Therefore, laws have to be made, to be promulgated in a state, by its law-making body, the parliament. We call these laws domestic laws. And in international relations, in diplomatic relations, international law, and diplomatic laws have to be prescribed. In essence, therefore, we may define the international law is the law that governs inter-state relations. Diplomatic laws are those which stipulate the diplomatic principles to be adhered to in establishing diplomatic relations between the sovereign states.
In modern history, there were two world wars which had brought enormous loss of lives and property and untold miseries and sorrows to mankind. So, in the preamble to the charter, it was stated: ‘’we the peoples’ of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow’ to mankind and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations, large and small, and to establish conditions under justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained and to promote social progress and better standards of life, in large freedom etc., we have agreed to the present charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization known as the United Nations.”
Laws are made for the benefit of mankind. Laws are made for all human beings to live in peace, in harmony, and to enjoy progress and development, to enjoy equality, liberty and fraternity. So laws must be well in accord with the changing and living world. In short, and all in a nutshell, “Law is not and must not be reduced to mere words in statute books and legal decisions, but is or should be an active, ceaseless social process that runs like nerve system in the living to society. Living laws are needed for a living society, and the blood stream of law needs to be constantly renewed and nourish so that it may accommodate change in its continuity, youth in its age”
Well, from a law-student point of view, may I say that “law is everybody’s business, everybody’ s concern. Nobody can argue that I have committed such an offence, because I don’tknow law. Ignorance of law is no excuse.
So also, when it comes to international relations, a state as “a member in the family of nations, has to abide by, has to obey the international laws which govern inter-state relations. No nation is an island.
(1) အသက္တစ္ရာမေနရ၊ အမႈတစ္ရာ ေတြ႕ရတတ္သည္။
(2) Black’s Law Dictionary by Bryan A, Garner
(3) Law and Custom in Burma the Burmese Family, Dr. Maung Maung
(4) The charter of the United Nations.