Throughout its history, Myanmar had its own legal system and judiciary. The ancient laws of Myanmar were the Royal edicts or Yazathat, the customary laws or Dhammathat, and the judicial decisions or Phyathton, which were subsumed by the Buddhist scriptures particularly the Jataka or religious story and ruling, and Vinaya or religious rules. These Buddhist scriptures are deeply rooted in ancient Myanmar societies. Even the king, who had the absolute power to make law or issue royal edicts, used to also follow them.
As the early Myanmar traditional legal and judicial system was accurately based upon the customary law and Phyathtons or decisions of courts, it could be called “Myanmar-owned Common Law system”.
Naturally, the Myanmar love to stay peacefully in weal or woe, would like to build peace and harmony, to avoid hostility and aggressiveness in the society and to build the unity and solidarity among the different nationals. Therefore, the objective of the Myanmar traditional legal and judicial system, which had been maintained throughout its history, was not an adversarial one, but one which tried to mediate or arbitrate first to reach a compromise with peaceful means for the welfare of the community or society if possible before proceeding to trial. For these purposes, Ancient Myanmar legal and judicial system could have contributed a lot to the country and its society throughout its history.
After being colonized, Myanmar was introduced to the British Legal and Judicial system, which was adversarial. Now, Myanmar has inherited and practices the British Common Law System.
From 1948 up to now, the successive governments had tried their best to make a good suitable legal and judicial system in accordance with its own internal unique political, social and economic situations to be able to serve for the benefit of the public. In 1974, the Revolutionary Council had set up the different legal judicial systems such as the Socialist Legal and Judicial System under which the people’s representatives sit in the bench and made the administration of justice a system for all.
In 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council paved the way to change from the Socialist Legal and Judicial System to the Democratic one. And in 2011, the Civilian Government had come to power, and followed through and implemented the Democratic ways which had been paved by the previous government.