Lower House Approves Annulment of Emergency Provisions Act

By Htun Htun 24 August 2016

The Lower House approved a bill on Wednesday that repeals Burma’s controversial 1950 Emergency Provisions Act.

The bill, which proposes the abolishment of the 66-year-old law, was drafted and submitted to the Parliament by the Lower House Bill Committee.

Tun Tun Hein, committee chair, argued that the Emergency Provisions Act had been used by previous governments to stifle political dissent.

“Today, there are less than a handful of laws in force that are as notorious and ill-famed as the Emergency Provisions Act. For emergency occasions, provisions in the state of emergency in the [2008] Constitution can be applied,” Tun Tun Hein told the Parliament.

The Emergency Provisions Act was originally enacted in March 1950 by the government of Burma’s first prime minister, U Nu, in response to the civil war that erupted in the wake of the country’s independence. The law grants sweeping authority to the government to prosecute individuals who disseminate “false news” or are otherwise determined to have “jeopardized the state.” Successive governments have abused it to suppress dissidents.

The act carries the death penalty and sentences of up to life in prison for treason or sabotage against the military. It also dictates up to seven years in prison for a sweeping range of other “offenses” against the state.

Military lawmakers and the Defense Ministry defended the Emergency Provisions Act, and suggested making some changes to the law rather than scrapping it.

In response to different views among the lawmakers, the bill was put to vote, with the majority voting to annul the controversial act.

In 2015, during ex-president Thein Sein’s administration, the National League for Democracy (NLD)—the then-leading opposition party—proposed scrapping the legislation at a Lower House legislative session; many within the NLD’s leadership were subjected to the Emergency Provisions Act under the military regime.

However, the move failed as the chamber was under the wider influence of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party majority at the time.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.