The Karenni State government ordered non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations to provide two weeks’ notice of any meetings or workshops they planned to hold in the region.
A statement issued by the regional government on Aug. 30 read that NGOs, INGOs and CBOs must inform township authorities two weeks prior to holding any meetings or workshops. It stated that following meetings, the groups must write a brief summary of the outcomes to send to concerned government ministers.
The Irrawaddy reporter tried to get a comment from the Karenni State chief minister, who replied that he would respond in person but not comment over the phone.
Many right activists including NGO and INGO workers criticized the statement, adding that it was not a democratic standard.
“The government wants to know all of the activities held by these groups. Their order does not uphold democratic standards,” said Kyaw Htin Aung, the director of the LAIN Technical Support Group, which assists rights groups holding meetings in Loikaw.
Many civil society organizations (CSOs) in Karenni State use religious buildings or schools to hold meetings, as they do not have the budget to rent space elsewhere.
These CSOs will face difficulties if they are forced to seek permission two weeks in advance of any meetings.
Rights activists say the state government began restricting their efforts in May of last year, when they were told they needed to seek permission 10 days before any events. The government did not take serious action if this was not adhered to in the past.
After Karenni youth held a protest against the state government’s project to construct a General Aung San statue in Loikaw, the government appeared to tighten its restrictions, said Khun Bernard, the general secretary of the Kayan New Generation Youth.
He said that if the government found the group’s meetings threatening, it could take action.
“But our meetings are to work toward peace,” he added.
Khun Bee Du, chairman of the Kayan National Party, said the state government also told people they were not allowed to protest in front of the regional parliamentary building or the Myanmar Army regional operations command base in Loikaw.
“I feel that they acted above the law,” he said. “It is time for the government and CSOs to cooperate.”