Making big cases small and small cases disappear: experiences of local justice in Myanmar

This joint research by MyJustice, ODI and Saferworld documents the lowest, and most used, levels of dispute resolution in communities in two parts of Myanmar – Mon State and Yangon Region. Drawing on interviews and focus group discussions with 600 people, it sets out the common disputes, crimes and injustices that people speak of experiencing, the ways people seek to resolve these issues and why, as well as an assessment of the quality of the justice they are able to achieve.

When asked about the purpose of justice, community members routinely said it was ‘to make big cases small and small cases disappear’. This captures a common reality of local experiences of justice in Myanmar: that disputes or injustices are not reported, are downplayed or are resolved at the lowest level possible, often at the expense of wider substantive justice.

MyJustice is a four-year European Union-funded and British Council-managed programme. In 2016, this piece of research served as a foundation to inform MyJustice’s thinking and programming to improve communities' access to justice in Myanmar.

The full report and research summary were first published online by MyJustice Myanmar.

Find out about Saferworld's work in Myanmar.

“Ongoing political contests in Myanmar and competing sources of power mean that who, and what, donors support in justice reform will have deeply political ramifications. External actors should be conscious of not defaulting to a state-building approach, which is especially sensitive in Myanmar.”

Lisa Denney, Will Bennett and Khin Thet San