Myanmar Military Junta Suspends Laws Protecting Citizens’ Privacy to Crack Down on Opposition

By The Irrawaddy 14 February 2021

YANGON — Amid late-night arrests of anti-coup protesters across Myanmar, the military regime has suspended laws to allow the authorities to arrest citizens and search private properties without a warrant.

The move puts the country back under complete military rule and spreads fears that anyone can be detained for more than 24 hours without a court’s approval.

On Wednesday, the regime suspended the articles from the Privacy Law enacted by the National League for Democracy administration to prevent citizens targeting each other with lawsuits and to protect privacy and security.

The authorities are now allowed to enter into private properties to search, seize evidence and arrest without a warrant.

Private messages can be intercepted and the authorities can demand personal telephonic and electronic communications data from telecoms providers. The military regime also suspended the requirement for a court to approve the seizure and destruction of possessions and property.

The authorities can now open, search, seize or destroy private correspondence, which was previously prevented by the Privacy Law.

The regime has also reinstated provisions (only some provisions) from the 2012 Ward or Village Tract Administration Law which requires citizens to report overnight guests to the authorities.

The legislation was amended in September 2016 despite opposition from military-appointed lawmakers who said it provided key data on people’s location.

Human rights activist U Aung Myo Min told The Irrawaddy that the suspension of the Privacy Law and the return of guest registration targeted anti-coup protesters. He said the regime had authorized itself to arrest anyone at any time.

He added that arrests and house searches without the presence of ward administers or a warrant would lead to human rights abuses.

“Lack of witnesses could lead to beatings and arbitrary confiscation of property at the time of arrest. Moreover, mandatory guest registration harms freedom of movement. The authorities can confiscate and seize citizen’s private property at any time,” he added.

“Human rights abuses will increase,” he said.

Since last week, the security forces have stepped up late-night arrests of civil servants, doctors, activists and politicians who are participating in anti-coup protests. Residents have been reacting with defiance as the authorities try to arrest their neighbors. Pots and pans are used to alert residents and police vehicles have been surrounded to prevent arrests. Citizens have asked to see arrest warrants.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said on Feb. 12 that 384 people, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and prominent activists, have been arrested since the Feb. 1 coup.

On Saturday, the military also issued arrest warrants for seven people, including veteran democratic activists and leaders of the 1988 uprising, U Min Ko Naing and Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Ko Jimmy, accusing them of undermining peace and order.

Despite a ban on gatherings and threats of a crackdown, a ninth day of anti-coup protests are being held across the country.

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