Legal Commission Recommends Scrapping 142 Laws

By San Yamin Aung 8 April 2016

RANGOON— Burma’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission has recommended that the government abolish or amend laws that have been used as tools to arrest political activists for decades.

In its first assessment of Burma’s current laws, the commission found that 142 laws currently on the books should be scrapped, amended or rewritten. The commission members said they hope their findings will help the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government work effectively for the interests of the nation and its citizens.

The group suggested removing the laws that were most often used to imprison activists.

“We suggested abolishing the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, the Penal Code’s 505(b), and amending Article 18 [of the Peaceful Assembly Law],” NLD lawmaker and commission member Maung Maung Ohn told The Irrawaddy.

These laws were widely used to arrest dissidents, politicians and activists under the previous military regime as well as under Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government. Peaceful protesters were often detained under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, which requires organizers to obtain government permission prior to protesting.

Human rights activists and opposition lawmakers pushed for amendments to these laws under the prior administration, but to no avail.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), there are currently almost 100 political prisoners behind bars and more than 400 awaiting trial, including about 50 students, who are facing charges after protesting in favor of education reforms.

Maung Maung Ohn said that the commission distributed the recommendations to the parliamentary committees and lawmakers on Wednesday to get further suggestions from them.

The Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission is led by Shwe Mann, former parliamentary speaker and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) chairman.

The first assessment also focused on laws regarding the state budget, taxation, tendering, farmers’ rights and government office expenditures.