How television can increase understanding of the rule of law

What do a courtroom, a police station, a local teashop and a football ground have in common? They are all settings in a new Burmese television drama series that has had over five million viewers nationwide.

The Sun, The Moon and The Truth is the first television drama in Burma to deal with justice and rule of law issues. It was created as part of the British-Council-managed and DFID-funded Pyoe Pin programme. The show’s popularity and huge reach is helping to raise awareness of the rule of law and legal rights across the country.

The show explores the positive influence of fair justice and the conflict caused by injustice. The eight-part drama shows real life legal issues in Burma, such as land rights, industrial relations, human trafficking, elections and fraud. And of course, true to any television drama, there are stories of romance and betrayal.

The drama series is directed by one of Burma’s most celebrated directors, U Aung Ko Latt, and has an entirely Burmese cast and crew. Broadcast across six national TV channels, the show has already been viewed by ten per cent of the population.

The Pyoe Pin programme works to improve understanding of legal rights and responsibilities in Burma, a country which continues to face complex challenges in relation to the rule of law and human rights. 

Inspired by the easing of censorship and media regulations and the soaring popularity of foreign soap operas, Pyoe Pin saw the potential for television as the perfect medium to explore justice issues. Since first being broadcast in February 2015, the show has had a significant impact on how viewers perceive rule of law issues and is sparking healthy dialogue across the country.

The show’s Facebook page, for example, is acting as a platform for younger generations to discuss the issues dealt with in the show. Over 84 per cent of the 36,000 fans on the page are aged between 18 and 34.

Focus groups and surveys with the show’s viewers have shown positive changes in attitudes towards the rule of law, greater awareness of legal rights and greater understanding of justice principles.

Pyoe Pin’s partners are also using the show to openly discuss rule of law issues in communities across Burma. The United Nations Population Fund and the Gender Equality Network, for example, are using the show to increase awareness of domestic violence in Yangon as part of International Women’s Day and with women’s groups in Kachin state.

The show builds on Pyoe Pin’s strong track record of supporting collaborative working by facilitating linkages and aligning incentives amongst partners in civil society, the private sector and government. 

Initiating the Myanmar Legal Aid Broadcasting Consortium to produce the show was a significant factor in ensuring the success of the project, as was the ability of all project partners to win government backing for a project that pushes the boundaries with the dramatisation of contentious issues such as corruption, malpractice and exploitation.

‘Our dream is coming true by working together for access to justice across Myanmar. This television programme can help bring a new dawn for the country – for its people to work together to shine the light of justice in all communities,’ says U Kyaw Mynit, from the Myanmar Legal Aid Network and Yangon Justice Centre.

The Sun, The Moon and The Truth complements ‘real world’ efforts to develop an effective legal aid system in Burma. Active involvement of partners working to strengthen the rule of law in Burma, such as the Myanmar Legal Aid Network, has been an integral part of the show’s success.

Find out more about the Pyoe Pin programme.