Update

Myanmar: Need for permission dropped in assembly amendment

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ARTICLE 19

14 Mar 2014

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ARTICLE 19 welcomes today’s development of an amendment on the law on peaceful assembly, removing the need for people to apply to the police for permission to protest - a violation of international law. 

The notorious provision in the Law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession required permission to protest and is infamous in Myanmar as “Section 18”. ARTICLE 19 has tracked 132 cases where the government has arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned people for failing to get prior permission to protest. Many of those people were protesting against Section 18 itself.

The amendment was put forward by a small and dedicated group of MPs, with a prominent role played by U Aung Zin, a member of ARTICLE 19’s civil society partner, the People’s Coalition for Free Expression.

“The amendment of this anti-democratic law would be the first successful step of a increasingly influential civil society working together with new MPs that are striving to democratise Myanmar within a fairly closed political set up. Despite recent negative changes in the newly adopted and undemocratic media laws, these new MPs and new civil society are together driving democratisation from the bottom up, and beginning to change the country for the better,” said ARTICLE 19 Director, David Diaz-Jogeix.

“Even though this is a deer’s step compared to a tiger’s step, change to Section 18 will spread beyond the parliament out to the people, and this is the least that I can do as an MP,” said Coalition member and MP, U Aung Zin.

The requirement for people to get permission to participate in a protest was a blatant violation of international law. At the very most, the only obligation should be for organisers of substantial protests to notify the police. ARTICLE 19’s Myanmar office has been pushing specific changes to the law since 2012.

Unfortunately however, it comes in the same week as three other problematic laws moved forward in parliament. 

After months of revision and discussion, parliament has adopted two disastrous bills, the Media Law and the Printers and Publishers Enterprise Law, both of which fall well below international standards.

Despite the initial progress shown by the government’s closure of the Censorship Board, the two new bills, which are due to be signed into law imminently by the president, include licensing systems and vague reasons for censorship, and are therefore not fit for a democratic state and violate international law.

A third law, on broadcasting, was also submitted to parliament this week, but similarly falls below international standards and would, if adopted in its current form, guarantee government control over television and the radio.