Update

Myanmar: Disappointment surrounds amendment to assembly law

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ARTICLE 19

27 Jun 2014

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ARTICLE 19 joins parliamentarians and civil society disappointed by the government’s failure to bring the Law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession in line with human rights standards.

Parliamentarians, including U Aung Zin, a member of ARTICLE 19’s civil society partner, the People’s Coalition for Free Expression, believed that they had successfully removed the notorious Section 18 from the Law, which requires demonstrators to get permission from the police prior to demonstrating.

The law has led to the prosecution of hundreds of people, many of whom were demonstrating against key issues such as government corruption and land confiscations.

Unfortunately, in the amendment signed by the president on 24 June, Section 18 remains. Instead of repealing it, Section 18 has been watered down but not to the extent that would turn the permission-model to one based on notification.

While the amendment has reduced prison sentences to six months, the lack of progress in reforming the law shows that the government still does not recognise that the right to assemble and express peaceful dissent is a fundamental human right.  

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned that the lack of clarity until now as to whether the amendment had or had not removed Section 18 shows that the process of legislating in Myanmar is extremely opaque. Parliamentarians are supposed to be leading the process of reform and should be fully informed so as to participate in the entire process of developing new laws.

Parliamentarians in the capital city, Naypyidaw, were convinced in March 2014 that Section 18 had been successfully removed in the amendment. However, three months later, the amendment that they believed to have been approved by parliament is nowhere to be seen. This raises real concerns as to the role of parliament in the new Myanmar state.