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Background

The various ethnic nationalities and their constituent units, which existed as independent entities in history, unitedly founded Burma, also known now as Myanmar, since its independence from the British in 1948. Since then, the country has been plagued by civil war given, inter alia, the lack of equal rights and self-determination of the ethnic nationalities, resulting in serious human rights violations to this day.

In terms of population, the Myanmar nationality forms the majority whereas non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities constitute a minority. Between1948-1962, the development of the country took place in the lowland – mainly inhabited by the Myanmar nationality – leaving behind the mountainous areas where non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities have been residing for hundreds of years. Such uneven development happened under the rule of the democratic regimes, which were mainly overwhelmed by the Myanmar leaders, under the 1947 Constitution. The non-Myanmar ethnic leaders deduced from these experiences that, due to lack of sufficient knowledge of the constitution and other laws, they were hoodwinked by the Myanmar leaders.

Before and after the independence of Burma, the main university, where law subjects could be studied, was located only in the capital of the country, Rangoon (currently, known as Yangon), to which the non-Myanmar ethnic youths had only rare access; as such, legal education was primarily enjoyed by the Myanmar youths. In the aftermath of the military coup of 1962, all people in Burma have suffered a lot. However, when the Myanmar nationality is contrasted with the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, the situation of the latter has been much worse than the former over the past five decades. Even under the current so-called democratic transition which commenced in 2011, a form of legal education – which would facilitate resolving underlying issues on civil war, advancing human rights and the Rule of Law, and leading to development of all ethnic nationalities – has remained unaddressed. At present, there exists no qualified law school in ethnic states.

In terms of geography, which is linked to the rights of the ethnic nationalities, the dealings of the international legal and human rights community have been uneven given that almost all of their major activities which seek to create an educational environment are currently conducted in the lowland – mainly in big cities such as Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Daw, etc. – whilst marginalizing the mountainous areas where uneducated non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities reside. Founding the Federal Law Academy is a modest attempt to address this gap.