The Baldy Center Podcast

Myanmar Armed Forces Day 2021. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Episode 40: Melissa Crouch discusses how Myanmar's military acts as a constitutional actor

Published March 25, 2024

In Episode 40 of The Baldy Center Podcast, Melissa Crouch, The Baldy Center Fellow 2024, discusses the role of courts in military regimes and the challenges of studying the military as a constitutional actor. She recently published the paper, “Judicial Loyalty to the Military in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Courts Are Militarized in Myanmar.” 

Keywords: Authoritarian rule; military regimes; militarized courts; international law; human rights; judiciary system; humanitarian aid.

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The UN Credentials Committee is responsible for considering who is the legitimate spokesperson for Myanmar. And of course the military at the moment is trying to claim that its person should be the legitimate spokesperson at the UN representative for the country of Myanmar (Burma). And in contrast, the pro-democratic civil society organizations under the banner of the CRPH are arguing that their representative should be the one at the UN as an international forum representing the people of Myanmar (Burma). That is ongoing.

And then there are a whole range of regional advocacy efforts and local advocacy efforts. But there is also violent resistance. And unfortunately because the military has chosen to stage many airstrikes, and burn down villages, this has been happening across Myanmar. Many people feel that there is no other alternative, so they have organized into PDFs (People's Defense Forces) that have a broader joint agenda of resisting military rule and returning the country to civilian rule."

            —Melissa Crouch
                (The Baldy Center Podcast, Spring 2024)

Melissa Crouch, The Baldy Center Fellow, 2024

Melissa Crouch.

Melissa Crouch

Melissa Crouch, PhD, is a senior research fellow at The Baldy Center. While in residence here, Dr. Crouch will be working on a manuscript about constitutional endurance and how past constitutions matter to contemporary reform debates in Myanmar. Based on her field research, the manuscript offers a constitutive approach to the relationship between constitutions and societies in the postcolony, with a focus on how periods of military rule and unconstitutional rule shape constitutional futures.

As a professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, Dr. Crouch's research contributes to the interdisciplinary fields of law and society; comparative constitutional law, with a focus on Asia. In 2022, she won the Podgorecki Prize for outstanding scholarship of an early career socio-legal scholar, awarded by the Research Committee on the Sociology of Law, the International Sociological Association. Dr. Crouch is the president of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (2023-2024), the peak academic body for the study of Asia in Australia.


"The Military Turn in Comparative Constitutional Law: Constitutions and the Military in Authoritarian Regimes"

Abstract: In this article I argue that studies of constitutions in authoritarian regimes reveal a new finding hiding in plain sight: that the military is often a pivotal constitutional actor. The question of how the military uses law and constitutions to enable and facilitate its influence in constitution-making and constitutional practise is under-researched. The military demands scholarly attention because of the unprecedented opportunities for the military as a constitutional actor due to the rise of populism and the decline of democracy; an increase in civil conflict; intensified efforts at counter-terrorism and anti-trafficking; and the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I review the literature across law and the social sciences on the military and the constitution in authoritarian regimes. In doing so, I demonstrate that the military is an important, yet overlooked, constitutional actor; that civilian control of the military is never absolute but a matter of degree and changes over time; and that histories of military rule and military use of law and constitutions matter. I call for a turn to the study of the military as a constitutional actor in comparative constitutional law.

Logan, Podcast Host/Producer 2023-24



Logan, The Baldy Center’s 2023-2024 podcast host/producer, is a graduate student in UB's School of Architecture and Planning, Program on International Development and Global Health. Logan is interested in NGOs and nonprofit global health initiatives within the global south. Logan completed undergraduate studies in Public Health, with a minor in Spanish, and has recently been accepted into a certificate program at NYU x Rolling Stone for Modern Journalism. As graduate research assistant, Logan has worked for the Women’s Health Initiative, and, the Community for Global Health Equity. Recipient of the 2022 Art Goshin Global Health Fieldwork Award for research on Decentralization of Health Services in Ghana, Logan currently serves as a research assistant with Dr. Tia Palermo's 2PE lab. 

Executive Producers

Samantha Barbas
Professor, UB School of Law;
Director, The Baldy Center

Amanda M. Benzin 
Associate Director
The Baldy Center