THE LAW OF CONTRACT IN MYANMAR

The Law of Contract in Myanmar by Adrian Briggs and Andrew Burrows was published in February 2017 and is the culmination of one of the major projects of the Oxford – Burma/Myanmar Law Programme. The research and writing was primarily carried out in Oxford using the facilities of the Bodleian Law Library and electronic databases but, in addition, short teaching visits were made by the authors to Yangon where the opportunity was taken to talk with law faculty, practitioners and judges about the Myanmar law of contract.

This is the first book to look in detail at the Myanmar law of contract. This may be thought surprising. After all, the law of contract deals with the law on agreements which are so central to all our lives and lie at the heart of commerce. Indeed the authors are not aware of any other jurisdiction in the developed world which does not already have one or more books on the law of contract and most have had such books for decades. In England and Wales, for example, the first edition of Chitty on Contracts was published in 1826 and the first edition of Anson on Contract in 1884.

The book primarily looks at the Myanmar Contract Act 1872 (and a small number of other statutes) and at the relevant Burmese/Myanmar case law. The authors have sought to identify, read, and understand all the reported decisions on contract of the courts of Burma/Myanmar since the enactment of the 1872 Act until about 1968 (after which the Myanmar law reports are in the Burmese language only). The book shows how well developed, in general, the law of contract in Myanmar actually is. It also shows the excellence, for the most part, of the 1872 Act.

The book has three main purposes. The first and most important is to contribute to the restoration of legal education in the law schools of Myanmar. The law of contract is the foundation of all commercial law and a thorough understanding of contract law, and of contract law technique, is the rock on which much of the law is built. The universities in particular, and those who worked and studied in them, had the most difficult of times while contact with the outside world was cut off. Though that unhappy state of affairs has come to an end, it will take a while for the law schools to make up the ground which was lost. Today’s generation of teachers and students may need to be shown what can be done with the law of Myanmar. So the hope is that this book will prove useful to all those working in the universities.

A second purpose is to provide a guide to Myanmar contract law for those working in Myanmar but outside the universities – in commerce and in law offices but also, perhaps, in courts and government offices – who need to know the current state of Myanmar contract law. It is also suggested, with those in government as the audience, that there are some minor reforms of the 1872 Act that are worth considering.

A final purpose is to explain the contract law of Myanmar to those from outside Myanmar but who have dealings with individuals and companies inside Myanmar. The more that is known about the laws of Myanmar, the more likely it is that contracts and other commercial relations will be regulated by the laws of Myanmar rather than by the laws of foreign countries.

The authors wish to make clear that, if there are relevant judgments on the general law of contract after 1968 which are available only in the Burmese language they form no part of this account. However, they have been told that the Union Supreme Court does not publish large numbers of judgments on contract law; and it may be that they have missed little. If anyone reading this book were able to draw their attention to judgments and other materials which may have been missed, they would be very grateful indeed.

The book has been published with the generous professional help of OUP on behalf of the Oxford University Law Faculty. It is available online for free by clicking the link to the book at the top of the page or here.

A limited number of hard copies of the book have kindly been made available by OUP.  They will be distributed to those who helped with the project (for example in the law faculties in Yangon, East Yangon and Dagon). Particular thanks are extended to Simon Makinson of Allen and Overy for his generous sponsorship of the work of this programme, to Josh Htet of A&O who assisted with translations of the preface and title pages into Burmese, and to Krishna Kishakkevalappil for his invaluable research assistance.