Phar Hmee is remembered for being the first Burmese woman to become a barrister in 1925.
Little is left in the records about Phar Hmee’s life. Born in 1902, she was the eldest daughter of a well respected civil servant in Rangoon. After studying at University College, Rangoon, Phar Hmee came to London, to study for the Bar. In 1924, she applied to become a student at the Inner Temple. Her application included a reference from Harvey Adamson who had been Lieutenant Governor of Burma 1910 – 1915:
I have every reason to believe that she bears an excellent character and is a very deserving Burmese lady – her family is well known and respected in Burma….From what I see and hear I am confident that she is worthy of encouragement.
Her teacher in England, a barrister Joseph Allan Watson, was also “most favourably impressed with her character and attainments”, and provided a letter of reference to the Masters of the Bench. Phar Hmee was called to the Bar in 1925.
Later, she married U Myint Thein, who had also read law at university, and was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in 1925. On their return to Burma, Phar Hmee became the first woman to practise before the Courts in Burma, and U Myint Thein became Burmese ambassador to Nanking, Beijing and the United Nations, before becoming Chief Justice of Burma between 1957 – 62.
When the military regime seized power in 1962, they refused to cooperate, and U Myint Thein was imprisoned. Sadly, Phar Hmee passed away in 1962 aged just 60, whilst her husband was still imprisoned.
Written by Annabel Twose, Project Coordinator of First 100 Years