Introduction to AsianLII`s Myanmar/Burma legal databases

 Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases Philip Chung, Graham Greenleaf & Andrew Mowbray, and AustLII staff*
Launch of AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma databases, UNSW Law Faculty, 23 May 2016
Hosted by AustLII and by the Australia/Myanmar Constitutional Development Project
Background and introduction ............................................................................................................ 3
Englishlanguagematerialsonly.........................................................................................................................................3
Potentialusersandusage......................................................................................................................................................3
TheAsianLIIinfrastructure..................................................................................................................................................4
TheMyanmar/Burmacollection–Interface.................................................................................................................4
Databases and resources in the collection ....................................................................................... 5
Legislationdatabases..............................................................................................................................................................5
Caselawdatabases...................................................................................................................................................................6
Internationallaw(virtualdatabases)...............................................................................................................................7
Legalscholarship(virtualdatabase).................................................................................................................................8
TheLawCitecitator..................................................................................................................................................................9
CatalogofMyanmarlegalwebsites................................................................................................................................10
Research examples and techniques ............................................................................................... 10
Searchesoveralltypesofcontent...................................................................................................................................11
Researchconcerninglegislation......................................................................................................................................12
Researchconcerningcases................................................................................................................................................12
Persistentlegalissuesandhistoricalresearch..........................................................................................................13
ComparativelegalresearchacrossASEANorAsIanjurisdictions....................................................................14
Potential future development .......................................................................................................... 15
Burmeselanguagecontent.................................................................................................................................................15
Inclusionincommonlawresearchresources............................................................................................................15
Appendix: Guide to use of AsianLII’s Myanmar databases ............................................................ 17
BrowsingtheDatabases......................................................................................................................................................17
SearchingtheDatabases.....................................................................................................................................................17
SearchingfromtheMyanmarcountrypage...............................................................................................................18
DisplayofDatabasesearchresults.................................................................................................................................19
LawCitecitator........................................................................................................................................................................19
*
The following AustLII staff and interns have worked on the development of AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma resources:
Hannah Figueroa, Jennifer Kwong, Dominic Smith and Jill Matthews, as well as interns Don Nguyen and Michelle Zhang;
We have also received valuable comments on drafts of this paper from Dr Melissa Crouch.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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Background and introduction The Australia/Myanmar Constitutional Development Project1 at UNSW Faculty of Law is one of a
number of Faculty initiatives intended to assist the development of the rule of law, legal education
and legal research in Myanmar. Myanmar is also one of three initial priority countries in the UNSW
Vice-Chancellor’s ‘Global Development Network’ initiative.2
The databases and other resources in this Myanmar/Burma collection have been developed by the
Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), a joint facility of UNSW and UTS Faculties of
Law, as a contribution by AustLII to assist these initiatives, and to provide what we hope will be
useful free-access resources for the people of Myanmar. A small amount of financial assistance
has been provided from UNSW and other universities.3
English language materials only
From early in the British colonial period in Burma, legal materials were increasingly in English, and
based on the common law tradition, but supplemented by Burmese customary law. The British
established courts from 18664, and there were appeals to the Privy Council in London from Burma
from as early as 1869. The Burma Code includes legislation applying to Burma from 1839 to 1955.
Until independence in 1948, Burma’s legal materials were primarily in English, and this was
continued in large part until 1962 in relation to legislation, and to a decreasing extent with case law
until 1969 (after which it is entirely in Burmese). Between 1962-88 legislation was only published in
Burmese, but since then at least primary legislation has had bilingual publication.
English language legal materials therefore play a very substantial part in the legal history of
Burma, although much less so in the current legal system of Myanmar. This collection of
databases is only searchable in English, and includes little content in Burmese. The possible
inclusion and searchability of materials in Burmese is discussed in the final section on potential
future development.
This collection of databases, being in English is therefore predominantly of the history of Burmese
law, though it does have a smaller component of post-1960 materials from when the legal system
of Burma/Myanmar was increasingly conducted in Burmese. The collection therefore does not
purport to represent the current state of the legal system of Myanmar.
Potential users and usage
We envisage that the database will be useful to a range of people. As will be mentioned later,
much of the legislation, even that of considerable age, is still in force. The case law may still be
used as precedents where it has not been made irrelevant by statutes, at least in theory. Legal
education in Myanmar is expected to be conducted in English. Practising lawyers in Myanmar may
find it valuable to be able to search every word of legislation and case law, and for the results to be
provided as individual Acts and individual cases, not as volumes of statutes or reports. Law
students and their teachers may find the same. We expect that legal historians, including those
involved in comparative common law history, will be significant users of the databases. Unofficial
English translations available for free online are sometimes more reliable than official English
translations, although reliance on the text of any translation in English should be done with caution.
1
< http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/research/special-projects/australia-myanmar-constitutional-democracy-project>
UNSW 2025 Statement of Strategic Intent – White Paper, 2016 <http://docplayer.net/650477-President-and-vicechancellor-introduction-strategic-priority-b-social-engagement.html>
3 Most of the databases are part of a broader project concerning the history of the common law, which has received
funding assistance from UNSW Library, UNSW Law Faculty, and Deakin University. Burmese legal history is one of the
first priority areas of that project.
4 Melissa Crouch ‘The Layers of Legal Development in Myanmar’ Chapter 3 in M Crouch and T Lindsay (Eds) Law,
Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart Publishing, 2014, p. 37.
2
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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The AsianLII infrastructure
The Asian Legal Information Institute (AsianLII) has been developed by AustLII for over a decade,5
and now includes over 300 databases from 28 Asian jurisdictions, provided with the cooperation of
eight free access Legal Information Institutes (LIIs).6 Until now, AsianLII has not had any significant
content from Myanmar.
The Myanmar/Burma collection – Interface
The databases in this collection are searchable in three ways: (i) individually, from the
Myanmar/Burma country page on AsianLII (shown below); (ii) jointly, from that some location, or
(iii) in conjunction with the rest of the 300+ AsianLII databases from the front page of AsianLII. The
interface (or ‘country page’)7 to the databases in the collection is as follows:
5 Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung and Andrew Mowbray ‘Challenges in Improving Access to Asian Laws: The Asian
Legal Information Institute (AsianLII)’ Australian Journal of Asian Law, available at < http://ssrn.com/abstract=996507>
6 Including AustLII, BAILII, CommonLII, LII of India, HKLII, LawPhil, PacLII, and WorldLII.
7 Myanmar/Burma country page on AsianLII <http://www.asianlii.org/resources/239.html>
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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By use of ‘Clear all’, and the selection of one or more check-boxes, individual databases or
customized selections of databases may be searched. In default, all databases are searched.
Databases and resources in the collection Each of the databases in the initial version of the Myanmar/Burma collection is now reviewed
briefly, with some comments on the extent to which key resources in each of the areas of
legislation, case law, and other legal content, both are and are not included. For this collection, this
depends to some extent on which materials are in English.
Legislation databases
The legislation collection includes in total over 600 items of legislation in English, but is not
comprehensive.
Constitutions
The database includes the four constitutions (1935 but in force 1937, 1947, 1974 and 2008).
Concerning the current (2008) constitution, the ‘English translation of the 2008 text is of a poor
quality and ought not to be relied upon to give an accurate impression of the original’.8
The Burma Code 1839-1951
The database includes 320 Acts (in English) in the 13 volumes of the Burma Code. This edition
was published in 1955, ‘covering laws enacted and still in force from 1818 to 1954 (in English and
Burmese)’.9 The published volumes were not chronological. The database provides indexes of the
legislation both alphabetically by title, and chronologically. These are ‘reprint Acts’ including
amendments up to 1955, but not subsequent amendments.
8 Melissa Crouch and Nick Cheesman ‘A Short Research Guide to Myanmar’s Legal System’, Chapter 2 in M Crouch
and T Lindsay (Eds) Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart Publishing, 2014, p. 23.
9 Law
Library Microform Consortium ‘LLMC Digitizes Primary Legal Sources on Myanmar (Burma)’
<https://www.crl.edu/news/llmc-digitizes-primary-legal-sources-myanmar-burma >
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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An index of all the Acts included in the Burma Code, with details of whether they have been
repealed since 1955 (at least until the early-1990s), was published by the Burma Lawyers’
Council,10 and should be consulted when using the Burma Code. Many of the laws in the1955
Burma Code were repealed by the mid-90s.
Myanmar Laws 1955-2015
This database includes 286 Myanmar Laws subsequent to the Burma Code compilation, including
Bills and draft Bills. They have been obtained from various sources, particularly the Online
Burma/Myanmar Library,11 and its sources (noted on its site), such as Polastri Wint & Partners and
the archive of the Burma Lawyers' Council (on the Internet Archive). These are also ‘annual Acts’,
included as enacted (or as Bills before enactment), and they may have been subsequently
amended or even repealed. This is not a comprehensive database, it only includes what is
available from Internet sources (not from digitization of paper sources).
Legislation not yet included
There are many valuable legislative sources, even in English, not yet included in the database.
Consolidated Acts (ie including amendments) are not included. Some consolidations are available,
including from Internet sources, but ‘generally have not been updated to incorporate amendments
since the 1970s’.12
Other pre-independence legislative sources include the eight editions of the Burma Code up to
1955,13 which would include many Acts not included in later editions; British Burma Acts, annual
volume 1898-1947; Acts of the Legislative Council of India applicable to British Burma 1835-63; A
Collection of Acts (Lt. Gov. of Burma in Council, 1898-1947); and various wartime legislative
collections.14
Other post-independence legislative sources in English, which could be included as future
databases, include annual volumes of Parliamentary Acts 1955-61, and annual or bi-annual
volumes of legislation in English published by the Union Attorney-General’s Office since 1988 15
Many of these Acts are included in the Myanmar Laws database, but in order to be systematic it
would be necessary to digitize from paper copies. Between 1962 and 1988 laws were not
systematically published in English, but only in Burmese.16 Translations (usually unofficial) of some
of these laws are included in the Myanmar Laws database. Crouch and Cheesman provide a
detailed discussion of legislative sources in Burmese, including subsidiary legislation, the
government gazette, website sources etc.17
Case law databases
Crouch and Cheesman note that ‘[n]o single law report series ran continuously through the colonial
era. Instead, a range of volumes were published over different periods, all in English, some of
them also translated into Burmese.’18 As noted below, the earliest reported cases in Burma are
from 1872 onwards. The three databases in the current collection, from the All India Reports,
include nearly 4,500 decisions, and includes a substantial percentage of published decisions from
Burma from around 1913 to independence in 1948. An additional database, discussed below
under Virtual Databases, includes decisions on appeal from Burma to the Privy Council dating from
1869-1941 (so Privy Council decisions date from around the same time as the earliest reported
Burmese cases).
10
Burma Lawyers’ Council The Burma Code (index) <http://web.archive.org/web/20110902212056/http://www.blcburma.org/html/Burma%20Code/Indexs/lr_law_bc_aindex.html>
11 Online Burma/Myanmar Library <http://www.burmalibrary.org/>
12 Melissa Crouch and Nick Cheesman ‘A Short Research Guide to Myanmar’s Legal System’, Chapter 2 in M Crouch
and T Lindsay (Eds) Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart Publishing, 2014, p. 21.
13 Jerry Dupont The Common Law Abroad, Fred B Rothman, 2001, ‘Burma’ pp. 621-633, at pp. 628-29.
14 Dupont, pp. 628-29.
15 Crouch and Cheesman, p.22.
16 Crouch and Cheesman, p. 22.
17 Crouch and Cheesman, pp. 22-23.
18 Crouch and Cheesman, p. 24.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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The three following databases have been prepared by scanning and OCR processing of the
published law reports, with subsequent splitting of volumes into separate cases, and extraction of
metadata for each case. The full text of the reports is searchable. Each decision in English is a
separate searchable item.
All India Reporter - Lower Burma 1907-1922
This database includes 794 cases, with tables of contents both chronological and alphabetically by
case name.
All India Reporter - Upper Burma 1913-1921
This database includes 210 cases, with tables of contents both chronological and alphabetically by
case name.
All India Reporter - Rangoon 1918-1941
This database includes 3,377 cases, with tables of contents both chronological and alphabetically
by case name.
Privy Council Decisions Concerning Myanmar/Burma 1869-1941
This database comprises 328 decisions by the Privy Council from 1869 to 1941. They contain
‘myanmar or burma or rangoon or mandalay’ in their titles, and are from the database of Privy
Council decisions held by BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) including pre-1873
decisions held by CommonLII. The Privy Council’s jurisdiction to hear appeals from Burma ceased
when independent Burma chose not to be a member of the Commonwealth. This database is
therefore complete.
Burma Reports 1947-1969
‘At independence in 1948, the Burma Law Reporting Council took responsibility for publishing the
Burma Law Reports.’19 Originally published in English, from the early 1960s the proportion of cases
reported in English progressively declined, so that since 1970 the reports have been exclusively in
Burmese. Scans of the volumes 1948-69 were available from the Supreme Court’s website and
were then OCR processed (etc) and made searchable. The database contains 1649 decisions in
English, with numbers declining from more than 130 in 1948 to 3 in 1969.
Case law not yet included
In addition to the report series listed above, there are at least the following reports dating (at least
in part) from before those included in this collection:20 Selected Judgments of Lower Burma (187292); Printed Judgments of Lower Burma (1893-1900); Agabeg’s Burma Law Reports (14 vols,
1895-1908); Upper Burma Rulings of the Court of the Judicial Commissioner, Mandalay (18921922); Lower Burma Rulings of the Chief Court, Rangoon (1900-22); Burma Law Times (1907-20);
Indian Law Reports, Rangoon Series (1923-43). Dupont 21 also lists Lower Burma, Dist. Ct.
Rangoon, Select Decisions (1859-60); Lower Burma, Criminal Circulars (1872-94); Rangoon Law
Reports (1937-42, 1946-47); Burma Law Journal (1922-27). There are also numerous published
digests of cases. AustLII intends to source and digitize as much of this earlier case-law as it can
obtain, but many of these reports are difficult to obtain.
International law (virtual databases)
‘Virtual’ databases are constructed by automated means, drawing content from other databases
held by LIIs which collaborate with AustLII. The content to be included is defined by searches over
those databases which identify content of sufficient relevance to Burma/Myanmar to justify
inclusion. The searches are repeated daily so as to update the content of the virtual databases.22
19
Crouch and Cheesman, p. 24.
From Table 2.2, Crouch and Cheesman, p. 24.
21 Jerry Dupont The Common Law Abroad, Fred B Rothman, 2001, ‘Burma’ pp. 621-633.
22 Graham Greenleaf ‘Subject Libraries in Free Access Law Services’ Festschrift Fur Gerhard Kafer, R. Helmut, ed.,
Saarbrucken, 2009, <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2027849>
20
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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Treaties and International Agreements Relating to Myanmar/Burma
From WorldLII’s International Treaties Collection23 a database is constructed of 405 international
agreements which use terms referring24 to Burma or Myanmar, or which refer to ASEAN, in their
titles. Since Burma is a now a member of ASEAN, all ASEAN agreements or declarations are
relevant to it. Of course, Burma or Myanmar may be parties to many other multilateral agreements,
and these are not likely to refer refer to them in the titles. These treaties in this virtual database
are therefore more likely to be bilateral or regional agreements.
United Nations Resolutions Concerning Myanmar/Burma
This database includes only the 66 resolutions of the UN General Assembly or UN Security
Council that refer to Burma or Myanmar in their titles, extracted from the following databases in
WorldLII: United Nations General Assembly Resolutions (UNGARsn) 1946-25 and United Nations
Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRsn) 1946-. 26 Numerous other UN bodies have made
recommendations or decisions concerning Burma/Myanmar, but these are not included because
WorldLII does not hold databases concerning those recommendations/decisions. These bodies
and their recommendations/decisions are indexed in the Online Burma/Myanmar Library (OB/ML),
and links to those parts of the OB/ML are included in the relevant sections of the Catalog &
Websearch section of the Myanmar/Burma AsianLII resources.
Possible expansions of virtual databases
We could also develop a virtual database of International Court Decisions Concerning
Myanmar/Burma, although there are only a few relevant cases, such as those involving EU
sanctions against Myanmar,27 and a few UN Committee decisions concerning asylum seekers from
Myanmar.28
Legal scholarship (virtual database)
The collection’s one database aims to make some of the legal scholarship on Myanmar/Burma
more readily accessible.
Law Journal Articles Concerning Myanmar/Burma
This database of over 70 law journal articles is constructed by searching AustLII’s Legal
Scholarship Library 29 (over 100 law journals) to find articles, speeches etc which refer to key
terms30 indicating relevance to Myanmar/Burma, and retaining the most relevant of those articles.31
This process is repeated daily, in order to automatically add new relevant articles received by
AustLII’s Library. There is a bias toward Australian scholarship because of sources of content.
Other legal scholarship
There is of course far more legal scholarship concerning Burma/Myanmar than is accessible via
AustLII or other LIIs. It has recently been reviewed by Melissa Crouch, who regards it as ‘an
understudied area in the field of Asian Legal Studies’.32 She aims to ‘explain the comparative lack
of legal scholarship on Myanmar and the particular challenges that this dearth has presented for
academics, legal practitioners, and local and foreign researchers’. In addition, ‘a large body of
23
International Treaties Collection < http://www.worldlii.org/int/special/treaties/>
The current search terms are: myanmar or burma or burmese or rangoon or mandalay or yangon or naypyidaw or
ASEAN
25 < http://www.worldlii.org/int/other/UNGARsn/>
26 < http://www.worldlii.org/int/other/UNSCRsn/>
27 For example, Pye Phyo Tay Za v Council of the European Union [2011] EUECJ C-376/10_P_O (29 November 2011)
28 For example, Republic of Korea [2015] UNCAT 5 (19 January 2015)
29 Australasian Legal Scholarship Library <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/#jschol>
30 The terms currently used are: myanma* or burma or burmese or rangoon or yangon or mandalay or Naypyidaw or
SLORC or rohingya or unocal or Kachin or Karenni or Shan State or maung or aung san or SPDC or Tatmadaw or
Hluttaw or dhammathat or mindon or burmese Buddhist
31 The top 10% of the retrieved items are judged to be of sufficient relevance in this instance (currently, 73/730 retrieved).
32 Melissa Crouch ‘Rediscovering 'Law' in Myanmar: A Review of Scholarship on the Legal System of Myanmar’ 23(3)
Pacific Rim Law and Policy Review 543-575, 2014, available at <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2444474>
24
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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literature exists on pre-modern Burmese law and “customary” law during the modern period’,
including some English sources.33
While most law journals exclusively on Myanmar law are in Burmese, there are at least five with
English language sections. 34 Another English language law journal focusing on Myanmar was
LawKa Pala - Legal Journal on Burma, (formerly ‘Legal Issues on Burma Journal’) which was
published by the Burma Lawyers Council in 39 issues from 1997-2011. It is archived on the Online
Burma/Myanmar Library.35
The LawCite citator
The LawCite citator36 is the main output of the LawCite project suite of programs developed by
AustLII. It is an international citator covering much of the caselaw of the common law world, journal
artilcles and law reform reports. It is generated automatically from data extracted from the content
of all collaborating LIIs, using data mining techniques. 37 The citator currently includes entries for
nearly five million cases and other content. Details on using LawCite are in the Appendix.
The Burmese caselaw in the collection (once the databases are built) is ‘data mined’ for citations to
other cases, and the LawCite citator is updated to include citation entries for the Burmese cases,
and links from entries for cases citing Burmese cases are made to those Burmese cases. The
process has started with the Burmese data, but because the database are new it is not yet
complete. Inconsistences and conflicts in how cases are cited must be resolved before the process
is complete. For example, there are 13 different report series internationally that use the identifier
‘BLR’, not only the Burmese Law Reports, and methods of disambiguation must be checked.
There are initially about 50 Burma/Myanmar cases for which LawCite has constructed citation
records, and this number will expand as the above-mentioned processes are completed, and as
more data is added to the collection. There is a ‘LawCite’ link to these Burma/Myanmar cases from
the front page of the collection. Also, in any search results, there is a
link following the
name of a case in the search results which, if selected, will go to the LawCite record for that case.
The example citation record below, Fone Lan v Ma Gyee, is of a case from a series the texts of
which not yet included in the collection (Lower Burma Rulings) but which has been cited in other
decisions, including a 1939 decision of the Privy Council on appeal from Burma, a decision in the
Burma Law Reports in 1949, and a number of decisions in the All India Reporter – Lower Burma
as early as 1914. From this citation record, there are links to the texts of each of these decisions in
the collection, so that the citation links may be followed.
As yet, the Burmese citation data in LawCite is far from complete, but it should already be valuable
for research in some areas.
33
For a summary, see Crouch and Cheesman, p.23.
Listed in Crouch and Cheesman, p.25.
35 LawKa Pala - Legal Journal on Burma (English) <http://www.burmalibrary.org/show.php?cat=1002&lo=t&sl=0>
(archive)
36 LawCite citator
<http://www.austlii.edu.au/lawcite/>; Andrew Mowbray is principal author of the LawCite project
software.
37 A Mowbray, P Chung and G Greenleaf ‘A Free Access, Automated Law Citator with International Scope: The LawCite
Project’ , Working paper, 2016, <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2768104>
‘
34
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Catalog of Myanmar legal websites
The Catalog at the bottom of the Myanmar/Burma page provides links to many dozens of external
websites which contain information relevant to law in Myanmar/Burma, classified under these
heads:
For example, an extract of the links from the ‘Human Rights’ category is as follows:
Suggestions for additional catalog entries are welcome and should be sent to the Catalog Editor
via the Feedback facility at the base of each page.
Research examples and techniques Details of how to browse and search the databases are in the Appendix, ‘Guide to use of AsianLII’s
Myanmar databases’. However, there are many uses that can be made of the collection that go
beyond simple browsing and searching. The rest of this section gives a few examples.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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Searches over all types of content
The clearest advantage of the way that legal materials are made available via AsianLII is that it is
possible to search all types of available legal materials simultaneously (in this case, legislation,
case law, scholarship, and international law), and to do so at the level of individual Acts and cases
(not volumes of same). For example, the search
judicia* near independen*
which means ‘documents containing words beginning with these roots/stems within 50 words of
each other’, such as the expressions ‘judicial independence’ or ‘independence of the judiciary’ or
‘an independent judiciary’, produces the following results (first 9 of 35 results shown):
The default display is By Relevance (based on word frequencies, scarcity and locations). This
example shows the most relevant items of scholarship, legislation, case law and international
agreements combined. Their dates range from 1923 to 2012.
These results can be displayed By Database (by clicking on that tab), so that the distribution of
results across all databases can be seen:
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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The contents of any one database (eg the 11 cases from the All India Reporter – Rangoon
database) could then be displayed by selecting that database.
Research concerning legislation
A few suggestions concerning legislation research:



To go directly to an Act, simply put the name of the Act (including its year) as search terms,
with no quotes. AustLII’s autosearch function recognizes the word ‘Act’ and finds the
relevant Act. For example: Land Acquisition Act 1894
To find all cases (or other legal materials) referring to an Act, three methods may be used.
None of them are perfect, and it is prudent to use a combination of methods:
o Search for the name of the Act in double quotes. If the year of the Act is not
included, the search may find more results.
o Go to the Act in the Burma Code database (by searching for it, or by browsing from
the front page of the Burma Code database), and select the ‘Noteup’ button from
the top line of buttons on the page. (Does not work for the Myanmar Laws
database.)
o Go to the LawCite home page (select the LawCite logo to do so) and put the name
of the Act (including the year) in the ‘Legislation Considered’ box.
To find cases concerning a particular section of an Act is more difficult. For example, the
key section in Burma’s Land Acquisition Act 1894 is section 4. A combination of three
methods should be used, illustrated using this example:
o Search for: Land Acquisition Act near 4
o On the LawCite home page put the name of the Act (try with or without the year) in
the ‘Legislation Considered’ box, and the section number in the ‘Section’ box.
o Use the ‘Noteup’ function at the top of the Act’s web page, then add ‘near 4’ to the
search.
Research concerning cases
A few suggestions concerning case law research:


To go directly to a known case, simply put the name of the case (with no quotes), including
the ‘v’ in the title, as the search term, and the autosearch function will recognize that the ‘v’
means that a case is sought; for example: Maung Shwe Ton v Maung Tun Lin
To find all cases (or articles) citing a known case, either put the name of the case in double
quotes as the search term, or (if there is any uncertainty about the party names) put the key
terms of each party name with the ‘near’ connector in between, as follows:
o “Maung Shwe Ton v Maung Tun Lin”
o Shwe Ton near Tun Lin
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases

13
To see the history of citations of a particular case, go to the LawCite record for that case,
and select the ‘Date’ column to sort the cases citing into chronological order (latest first).
For example Ma Tok v Ma Tbi has been cited in 9 other cases, from 1915 to 1959:
Persistent legal issues and historical research
Some legal issues have long historical roots in any legal system based in part on the common law.
An example is that issues of Burmese Buddhist law38 have very frequently been considered by the
Burmese and UK courts since the earliest decisions. For example, the search ‘dhammathat or
burmese buddhist law’ produces 409 results, almost all of which are cases, and 16 of which are
decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Such decisions are very relevant to
anyone considering the place Burmese Buddhist law in the current law of Myanmar, or in its
historical development. They have not previously been so easy to find.
Experts on Burmese law have suggested that future research that would benefit from use of the
database collection include research on the influence of British legal thought on the development
of law in Burma; on the connections and influences between India and Burma in terms of
development of legal principles in the colonial era; and on the role of the Supreme Court of Burma
in the early years of independence
As an example of historical research, the history of case law concerning the death penalty can be
traced by doing a search for ‘capital punishment or death penalty’, then sorting the 37 results by
date (which gives a ‘Latest first’ display). Further selection of the ‘Earliest first’ option results in the
following display (first seven results only shown),starting with the earliest case held (1914), and
progressing chronologically through all items that satisfy the search request, until the most recent
item held (a case from 1962:
38 For a brief description, see Melissa Crouch ‘The Layers of Legal Development in Myanmar’ Chapter 3 in M Crouch
and T Lindsay (Eds) Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart Publishing, 2014, section ‘The Origins of Burmese
Law’, pp. 34-36.For details see Andrew Huxley ‘Is Burmese Law Buddhist?: Transition and Tradition’, Chapter 4 in
Crouch and Lindsay.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
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This result would be much better, of course, if pre-1914 cases were held. Such searches may be a
valuable research tool for many examples of historical research, particularly those where tracing
the history of a concept is relevant.
Comparative legal research across ASEAN or AsIan jurisdictions
Research comparing Burmese law with that of other ASEAN jurisdictions, or over all Asian
jurisdictions is facilitated by AsianLII.
A search across all nine ASEAN jurisdictions can be done by going to the front page of AsianLII,
choosing the link to the ‘ASEAN’ page, and carrying out the search from there.
As an example of a search across all 26 Asian jurisdictions, consider a search of the
Myanmar/Burma resources for material on the old type of chattel mortgage known as
hypothecation. A search for ‘hypothecat*’ produces 46 results (mainly Burmese cases, but also two
Acts and three Privy Council decisions). Simply by selecting ‘Repeat search over … All AsianLII
databases’ at the top right of the search results page (as shown below), the same search can be
repeated over the 300+ databases on AsianLII.
The result is that 1874 cases and legislative items about hypothecation can be found from 15
Asian jurisdictions, with the results here displayed By Database, demonstrating its wide usage
across Asia but particularly in South Asia.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
15
Potential future development The developments sketched in this paper are the start, but not the completion, of AustLII’s
development of Myanmar/Burma legal resources. The discussion of the databases has already set
out how they do not include many important English-language legal resources. Subject to funding,
and availability of source documents, as many of these as possible will be added to the collection
in due course. This final section discusses some potential developments which go beyond
expansion of the English language databases.
Burmese language content
Until the collection’s databases include content in the Burmese language, and that content can be
searched with the English-language content, this collection can give only an incomplete account of
the evolution of Burmese law, much less an understanding of current Myanmar law since much of
it is only available in Burmese. Asian languages, or at least those that require a ‘double byte’
representation (such as Burmese), present difficulties for the efficient operation of search engines.
AustLII’s open source search engine (called SINO), has an extension (an approach called ‘u16a’)
which is theoretically capable of searching texts in any Asian language simultaneously with English
(or other languages using Roman scripts), but its use requires considerable customization for each
language. 39
If funding becomes available in the future, AsianLII may consider developing
Burmese language database with the assistance of researchers proficient in Burmese, and the
capacity of the SINO u16a extensions to search Burmese texts..
Inclusion in common law research resources
There are other locations than AsianLII from which the Myanmar/Burma content will be searchable.
One is the Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII). Although Myanmar has not
been a member of the Commonwealth since independence, the legal system of Myanmar was
formed on a common law model during the colonial period, though it has departed from that model
in many respects since then.40 All of the content of AsianLII is also searchable, along with much
more content from most countries in the world, via the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII).
39
P Chung, A Mowbray and G Greenleaf ‘Searching Legal Information in Multiple Asian Languages’ Legal Information
Management, Vol. 13, 2012, available at < http://ssrn.com/abstract=2104022>
40 For a history of this development, see M Crouch ‘The Layers of Legal Development in Myanmar’ in M Crouch and T
Lindsay (Eds) Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, Hart Publishing, 2014
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
16
AustLII, in cooperation with the other LIIs involved in CommonLII, is also developing an
‘International History of the Common Law Library’, and the pre-1950 Burmese materials in this
collection will form part of that Library. We plan to launch a prototype of that Library, on
CommonLII, during 2016. Such a history of the common law will, among other things, enable some
more sophisticated research in colonial legal history than is now easy to carry out (or perhaps even
possible), such as tracing the influence on laws and societies as particular colonial administrators,
including judges, moved from one part of the British Empire to another during their careers,
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
17
Appendix: Guide to use of AsianLII’s Myanmar databases Browsing the Databases
To find all databases for a country, select the name of that country from AsianLII’s front page to go
to the county’s page in AsianLII. The databases are listed first on the country page, under
‘Databases’. Select the name of a database to go to its home page, which shows the number of
items in the database, the range of years from which they are derived, the date of the most recent
item added and both annual and alphabetic tables of contents (both may not be available in some
cases).
Legislation databases
Front page of each database
[Database Search]
[Name Search]
‘Last updated: ...’
limits scope of search to database named at the top of page.
limits scope of the search to names of Acts in this database. Search with
key words in the title of a known Act.
most recent date database was updated on system;
NOTE- does not indicate legislation is consolidated to that date .
Additional button on each Act or section (if available - depends on database)
[Table]
[Notes]
[Noteup]
[Previous]
[Next]
[Download]
goes to the Act’s table of contents, at the entry for this section.
displays notes associated with current Act; amendment histories etc.
searches automatically for all materials on LII which refer to this section.
goes to preceding section in Act; use for “stepping back” through an Act.
goes to the next section in the Act; use to ‘step through’ sections of an Act.
downloads copy of whole current Act (not single section); choose ASCII or (if
available) RTF; if ASCII, print or save using normal browser commands
To go back to the home page of a database, choose its name in the ‘You are here’ line: eg ‘You are here: AsianLII >> Databases >> Indian Legislation >> Patents Act 1970’
Case Law databases
[Database Search]
[Name Search]
[Recent Decisions]
limits search to only the current database.
limits scope of search to titles of cases in current database only.
displays most recent cases added, by date of the case.
Searching the Databases
There are 3 search options: from the front page, a country page, or the Advanced Search page
•
The Front page search is at the top of AsianLII’s front page - use to search all databases
•
The Country page search limits searches only to databases from the country that has been
chosen; it also allows searches of the Catalog/Websearch or law on Google, for material from that
country.
• The Advanced Search Form (accessed from the front page) allows various special searches that
cover all Asian countries but only some materials (eg legislation); it also allows special search types.
Connectors (used for all 3 search options)
Operator
Meaning
Example
and
page contains both terms
negligen* and defam*
or
page contains either of two terms
weapon or gun or firearm or pistol
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
not
page contains 1st term but not 2nd
trust not family
near
1st term is within 50 words of 2nd
disclos* near offence
1st term is within n words of 2nd
court w/5 jurisdiction
1st term must precede 2nd term by less than
n words
contempt pre/3 court
Always use parentheses if search includes
two types of connectors
contempt near (radio or television)
Use * for truncation
‘negligen*' finds negligent, negligence,
negligently etc
Regular plurals, and singulars, are searched
automatically
‘firearm’ = ‘firearms’ and vice-versa
‘treaty’ = ‘treaties’ and vice-versa
w/n
or /n/
pre/n
(
)
n*
18
Searching for phrases = To search for a phrase, put it in double quotes (eg “freedom of
information”). This is not necessary for a Boolean search (ie if connectors are used) but it is better
to be sure.
Search terms the same as connectors – If a phrase is searched for which contains a connector,
the whole phrase should be put in double quotes (eg “fit and proper person”).
Searching from the Myanmar country page
On each country page, the following search window appears. The default search scope is
‘Databases’ for that country. (Ignore Catalog & Websearch’ – now non-functioning)
The Database search option
The Databases search will then search all of the databases listed on that country page, but no
others. To search only one of the databases, go to that database’s home page and choose the
‘Database Search’ option (described above). There is at present no way to search a combination
of databases from one country (an enhancement is planned).
The Law on Google option
If the ‘Law on Google’ option is chosen and search terms inserted, then the search is sent to the
Google search engine to be carried out, but it is first transformed in three ways in order to make it
more useful:

First, the search syntax used by the AsianLII search engine is translated into those required
by Google’s search engine (for example, ‘or’ is translated into ‘OR’; phrases are put into
quotes);

Second, terms to restrict results to those relevan to the country concerned are added; for
example, a search from the India page will have ‘India OR site:.in’ added;

Third, a list of law-related search terms is added to reduce the likelihood of sites unrelated
to law being found or ranked highly.
It may sound complicated, but it generally produces good results.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
19
Display of Database search results
Where Databases are searched, four options allow different displays of search results.
By Relevance – The default results display is by order of likely relevance to the search request,
most relevant first. The percentage ranking (‘relevance ranking’) next to each document shows
100% for the first document if it contains all search terms. All others are ranked pro-rata to that
document according to number, frequency and location of search terms they contained. The
‘Collapse Multi-sections | Show All Sections’ option makes search results which contain
numerous references to legislation more readable by reducing the number of sections visible.
By Date – Results are sorted by date order, most recent date displayed first (ie reverse
chronological order). Legislation is displayed by the date the Act was passed or the Regulation
made, not by the date on which a particular section or clause was amended. The ‘Collapse Multisections’ option is available.
By Title – The results are sorted alphabetically by the title of the document, and displayed from az. The ‘Collapse Multi-sections’ option is available. The ‘Collapse Title’ option groups the results
together based on the first alphanumeric character in the title, that is, ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and then ‘0-9’.
By Database – The search results are displayed grouped into the databases on which they are
located. The databases are displayed in the order in which they appear in AsianLII’s menu
structure (not by number of results found in each). To view the results from only one database,
click on the number of documents next to the name of the database (Note: to see the results from
all databases again, it is necessary to use the ‘back’ button). The ‘Collapse Listing | Expand
Listing’ option is only available with the ‘By Database’ display.
‘Context’ - going to the occurrences of search terms
- The ‘Context’ button
appears at the top of most documents found in a search. Click on the red arrow to go to the first
search term, then forward (or back) on further red arrows to go from one occurrence of search
terms to the next. Wait until the whole document has loaded before using the ‘context’ button
ie when the status line at the bottom of the screen says ‘Document done’.
[PDF] results – If a search result has ‘[PDF]’ in front of it then it is not displayed as a HTML file (a
web page), but instead will automatically be downloaded as a PDF (Portable Document Format)
file if the link to the result is selected. PDF files are in the original format provided by the data
source and do not have internal hypertext links or ‘context’ and other navigation buttons otherwise
found on LII documents.
Modifying searches - The Search Results page always displays your current search (or stored
search) at the top of the page, allowing it to be modified and another search run.
The ‘Repeat search over:’ box On the right side of each display of Database search results, the
options in this box allow the same search as has just been executed to be repeated over any of 4
other broader sets of data: (i) All AsianLII databases (valuable if only one country has been
searched); (ii) Catalog & Websearch (all countries, not only in Asia); (iii) WorldLII Databases (all
databases in the World legal Information Institute); and (iv) ‘Law on Google’ (no limitation to one
country).
LawCite citator
LawCite’s search screen allows numerous ways to find cases or articles. For cases, use a
citation, or any combination of party name(s), court, jurisdiction and/or year(s). The name of one
party, and the court (or sometimes even the jurisdiction), can also often be used. To limit cases
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
20
found to those from a particular period, put two years in the ‘Year’ field. For articles, use a
combination of article title or author.
LawCite search results show (i) cases, (ii) law reform reports and (iii) law journal articles
matching the search. To go to the LawCite record for a case or article, select from the Case Name
or Journal Article Title field, as below:
The search results can be sorted by selecting any of the other fields (in default, sorted by Citation
Index). From the list of search results, choose the case that best matches your search. Citation
information for that case is then displayed. For large lists of search results (more than 5000) the
user is prompted as to whether or not they want to continue prior to the list of results being
displayed.
LawCite Case and Article records consist of a header followed by up to four tables. The header
lists the name of the case or article, the citations list, the court / journal, the jurisdiction and the
date. Alternative (parallel) citations for the case are displayed with its title. Where a free full-text
version of the case or article is available, the citation in the citations list will be a live link (blue).
The following tables (in order) are: Legislation Cited (with live links to the full-text); Cases and
Articles Cited; Cases Referring to this Case or Article; Journal Articles Referring to this Case or
Article. Quick access to each of these tables is via the links at the top left hand side of the screen.
The tables contain a number of columns. They can be sorted on the basis of the contents of each
column by clicking on column name at the top of the table. The currently selected column for
sorting is indicated by a † symbol. Hovering the mouse over various table elements gives further
information about the item or a note as to what will happen if you click on a link. The columns are
as follows:

Case/Article/Legislation Name – This column contains the case name or article title. This is the way the
case or article is most commonly referred to in the full-text data from which LawCite is built. If you click
on this name, you will get the LawCite entry for this case or article (if one is available).

Citations – The Citations column contains all known citations for a case or article. Clicking on any live
(blue) citations will bring up the full-text of the case or article. You can also hover over a citation to see
what it is (ie which journal or series of law reports). The order of citations is neutral citation first (if any),
authorised citation next (if any) and then citations ordered by how often they have been referenced.

Court/Author – This column contains the name of the court that handed down the decision or the author
of an article. This is determined for cases, on the basis of the series that appear in the citations list and
in the case of articles, from meta-data in any linked full-text version. This information will not always be
available.

Jurisdiction – The Jurisdiction column list the country and (sometimes) the sub-jurisdiction. It is almost
always available and again is derived from the series.
Introduction to AsianLII’s Myanmar/Burma legal databases
21

Date – This column lists the date or year of a decision or judgment. Dates refer to the date that a
decision was handed down. A year is the year that a decision or journal article was first published.

Full Text – The Full Text column lists a place where the full text of the decision or article can be found
(for free access). Where available, this will normally be one of the Free Access to Law Movement sites
(AustLII, BAILII, HKLII etc). Where no free version exists, a sensible starting point for finding the decision
on one of the commercial services is sometimes listed. The latter is only intended as a guide as the
decision may be available in a number of places.

Flags – This column has a flag indicting the nationality of the decision or article. It is intended to make it
easy to see at a glance where things are coming from.

Citation Index – The Citations List column contains (as a minimum) a small LawCite logo. Clicking on
this will bring up the LawCite record for the case or article. Where the case or article is frequently cited, a
number of "stars" will appear. The greater the number of stars, the greater the popularity of a case or
article. Each star indicates approximately 50 citations.
LawCite records do not explicitly include appeal details, and do not include editorially-developed
information such as ‘distinguished’ and ‘not followed’.
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