Army Resists Article 66(d) Reforms

By Htet Naing Zaw 26 July 2017

NAYPYITAW — A military representative in the Upper House argued against granting bail for controversial Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

In amending the law, Maj. Thet Min Oo said consideration should be given not only to human rights, but also to national security, politics, economy, and government.

Granting bail for articles 65, 66(b), and 66(d) would amount to the legislative branch intervening in the judicial sector, said the major, who called for a review of the amendment to the law. Under the current law, the judge decides whether or not to grant bail.

“It is not appropriate to grant bail to individuals and organizations that disrupt the communications network,” he added.

The telecoms law was enacted under the previous Thein Sein government in 2013 to control the country’s booming communications industry, but has been criticized for suppressing freedom of expression using a clause on online defamation.

Thirteen lawmakers debated amendments to the law proposed by the Upper House Bill Committee. Seven lawmakers proposed scrapping the law, and other lawmakers favored granting bail, but the military representatives rejected both.

National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers called for granting bail to the defendants and only allowing the aggrieved party to file a lawsuit, as the existing law allows a third party to file a lawsuit on behalf of the party.

The lawmakers said the law was vague, adding that defendants in more than 90 cases charged under Article (66)d were wrongly accused and given jail sentences.

Article 66(d) states that whoever uses a “telecommunication network to extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb inappropriately influence or intimidate,” on conviction can be “punished with imprisonment for a term extending to a maximum of three years, and shall be liable to fine or both.”

However, lawmaker U Htay Oo of Yangon Region (2) said the article should be scrapped altogether.

“Article 66(d) is unnecessary as the circumstances in its provisions are already covered in the Penal Code,” he told the parliament.

Though satirical description of state leaders and institutions is a widely accepted culture in other countries, it is different in Myanmar, said lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt of Rakhine State (3).

“In our society, there is deep sensitivity over such a culture, plus there is a bad habit of reprisal,” said Khin Maung Latt.

Speaker of the Upper House, Mahn Win Khaing Than, assigned the bill committee to review the draft amendments.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.