BURMA: Licences of lawyers revoked for merely representing their clients’ wishes


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-062-2009
ISSUES: Judicial system, Military, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously reported on the case of two human rights lawyers who were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment each for contempt of court, because they withdrew their powers of attorney on the wishes of clients who cited the reason as a lack of faith in Burma’s judicial system. Now we regret to inform you that the licences of both lawyers have been revoked in a similarly unlawful manner.


The AHRC has documented in detail the contempt of court case against and imprisonment of Supreme Court lawyers U Khin Maung Shein and U Aung Thein in September 2008 after they submitted letters to a court withdrawing their powers of attorney citing their clients statements that they had “no longer had faith in the judicial process”. The judge attributed the statement to the lawyers rather than their clients and brought a charge of contempt against them. In November the two were found guilty without being able to defend themselves, and were sent to prisons far from their homes in Rangoon. They were released in March 2009.

In May the two rights lawyers were sent a copy of an order disbarring them from practice as lawyers. Ironically, the law revoked their licences under terms of a law that also should entitle them to tribunal hearings, and again, guarantees the right to present a defence in any disciplinary proceedings, which the two were denied.

Full details of the case are available at: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burma-lawyers  Additional details also are contained in the sample letter, below.


The AHRC has been documenting numerous cases speaking to what it has described as Burma’s “injustice system” and Urgent Appeals on many of these can be accessed by going to the appeals’ page and entering “Burma” into the search box: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/search.php  Two special reports have also been issued in the article 2 periodical, “Saffron Revolution imprisoned, law denied” (vol. 7, no. 3, September 2008) and “Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia” (vol. 6, no. 5-6, December 2007).

There are also a number of related sites, including the AHRC Burmese-language blog, Pyithu Hittaing, and the most recent campaign page on lawyers imprisoned for attempting to defend their clients: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burma-lawyers/

See also the 2008 AHRC Human Rights Report chapter on Burma.



Please write to the persons listed below to call for a review of the procedure to revoke the two lawyers’ licences. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma, and Rangoon should be Yangon.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar and independence of judges and lawyers as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Revocation of lawyers’ licences not in accordance with law

Lawyers whose licences revoked: 
1. U Aung Thein, Advocate No. 2703, residing in Ward 8, Thingangyun Township, Yangon
2. U Khin Maung Shein, Advocate No. 4660, residing in Bogone Ward, Insein Township, Yangon
Under: Supreme Court Order No. 46/2009, signed by Than Myaing, Director; dated 15 May 2009

I regret to learn that after four months’ unjust and illegal imprisonment, two Supreme Court advocates in Myanmar have had their licences revoked, and I call on you to review the allegations against them and reinstate their rights to practice law.

Briefly, I am aware that U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein are both advocates of long experience who in 2008 were representing many defendants in criminal cases arising from the protests of September 2007, including the defendants in Felony Nos. 307-311/2008 before Judge Daw Aye Myaing of the Hlaing Township Court. At the hearing of 6 October 2008 one of the defendants, speaking on behalf of the others, informed the court that as they “no longer had faith in the judicial process” that they would withdraw the power of attorney from the two lawyers. At the hearing of October 20 Khin Maung Shein in the courtroom gave the submissions to withdraw power of attorney. The defendants read the documents thoroughly and each signed them. The two attorneys also had their signatures affixed. Then the documents were submitted to the court. At that time the judge said that the remark that the defendants “no longer had faith in the judicial process” had not been made orally at the earlier hearing and said that the lawyers had themselves inserted it.

The Hlaing Township Court then made an application to the Supreme Court under section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926, that, contempt of court may be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to six months, in Miscellaneous Criminal Application No. 99/2008, Daw Naw Than Than Aye applicant. The aforesaid act has no provisions in it at all to define the circumstances or manner in which contempt may be proven or otherwise.

On 6 November 2008 the Supreme Court found the two advocates guilty of contempt of court and sentenced them to four months’ imprisonment each, despite its own apparent uncertainty about what had transpired.

After their release on 6 March 2009, the two lawyers went back to work but on 15 May 2009 they were sent copies of Supreme Court Order No. 46 /2009, disbarring them from practice.

Ironically, the order dismissing them from service cited section 10(1) of the Bar Council Act 1926, authorizing the court to remove lawyers found guilty of misconduct. The same law also very clearly lays down the procedure for holding a tribunal to investigate misconduct prior to suspension or removal, including, in section 12(3), that the court shall inform the accused advocate of the date of hearing and “shall afford the advocate concerned… an opportunity of being heard before orders are passed in the case”. None of that happened in this case.

I urge the authorities in Myanmar to review as a matter of urgency the revoking of these two lawyers’ licences, with a view to reinstating them to the profession or at very least affording them the fair hearing to which they are undeniably entitled but have so far been denied.

Yours sincerely


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-062-2009
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Judicial system, Military, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,