Mawlamyine, Myanmar’s fourth largest city, is nestled between the fast-flowing Salewa River and hills topped by beautiful Pagodas, near the Andaman Sea. During my multi-week International Clinician In-Resident (ICIR) placement at Mawlamyine University, I found that its Law Department has ambitiously responded to the efforts of the Consortium made up of Bridges Across Borders South East Asia Community Legal Education Initiative (BABSEACLE), DLA Piper/New Perimeter and Herbert Smith Freehill’s, plan to assist in the development of clinical legal education in Myanmar. This is being assisted, in large part, through the support of the ‘USAID Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP)’ and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Led by dynamic and visionary Professor Head Saw, twenty four Law Department faculty members, operating in two teams of twelve, participated in daily planning discussions and training activities, which led to the approval and adoption of a three year strategic plan and a detailed course syllabi, to begin the first day of their next academic year that begins December 7, 2015. The plan calls for the creation of two clinical legal education programs. This plan includes the launching of the first in-house clinic in Myanmar, a program that will deliver consultation and referral services to low income clients with family law problems. It also includes starting a CLE mock trial clinic. These programmes will be offered as part of a human rights course which is part of the approved curriculum, but is currently not offered to its student body. An important component of this plan is the commitment, by the Mawlamyine Law Department, to teach these clinics as one term courses, for credit. By offering each clinic as a one term, for credit, course Mawlayyaing will provide a clinical legal education experience to every final year law student.
Each participating Mawlamyine faculty, in their respective section teams, assumes and shares the responsibility for developing and teaching the clinic program. These teams share responsibility for writing detailed syllabus-approved class lesson plans for each class in the syllabuses they approved. They are also responsible for the development of role plays; and for assembling the required reading materials for the courses. In addition to promoting social justice values, Mawlamyine’s the in-house clinic will provide intensive skills and learning opportunities, initially regarding interviewing and counseling and in later years, negotiating and mediation. The mock trial clinic also will promote social justice awareness and provide intensive skills, learning opportunities in strategic case planning, witness examination, and persuasion.
Mawlamyine University plans to remodel two small rooms, on the first floor of its Law Department building, so that in-house clinic students and teaching team members can meet, hold classes, and conduct interviews. Efforts are also being made to develop a collaborating relationship with the Mawlamyine City Justice Center where practicing lawyers may accept referrals from the Mawlamyine University in-house clinic, and may consult with teaching team members regarding local legal issues.
All of us a very excited about this ambitious, but doable, plan and we are eager to assist this efforts to make this plan a reality.
By Don Peters, ICIR-Myanmar, Professor of Law Emeritus, and Director Emeritus, Civil Clinics, Levin College of Law at the University of Florida