Human Rights

Upper House Bill Committee Reviews Controversial Laws

By San Yamin Aung 26 April 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s Upper House Bill Committee on Tuesday began reviewing the Peaceful Assembly Law and the Emergency Provisions Act, both of which have been used in the past to arrest political activists, with the intention of eventually submitting the bills to Parliament for amendment or even abolishment once the legislature reconvenes.

Aung Kyi Nyunt, who is on the committee, told The Irrawaddy that members will review 15 of the 142 laws recommended by the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission to be scrapped, amended or rewritten, while other parliamentary committees will review the remaining laws.

“We are now starting to review the Peaceful Assembly Law and Emergency Provisions Act. After reviewing these laws, we will decide whether to amend or abolish them, and then later we will submit these recommendations to the Parliament,” Aung Kyi Nyunt said, adding that the two bills would be prioritized throughout the review process.

Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on May 2, following a lengthy parliamentary recess for the annual Thingyan water festival.

Human rights activists have long called for these two laws to be abolished or at least amended since they were widely used under the military junta, and later former President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, to repress political activists.

Peaceful protesters were often detained under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, which requires organizers to seek government permission prior to protesting.

If the committee submits amended bills to Parliament, and if Burma’s new National League for Democracy (NLD)-controlled Parliament votes in favor of the committee recommendations, the changes would likely be hailed as another human rights achievement for the new government, which released more than 100 political prisoners, activists and students earlier this month.