Protesters May Be Required to Identify Funding Sources

By San Yamin Aung 20 February 2018

YANGON — A newly proposed amendment to the country’s protest law would require protesters to inform authorities of the estimated cost of any planned demonstration, and designate the person or organization who will pay for it.

Upper House Bill Committee secretary Dr. Myat Nyana Soe submitted a bill proposing the amendment during Monday’s parliamentary session.

The Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law was originally enacted in 2011 under the previous military-backed government. Critics of the legislation say it has been used by authorities as a tool to crack down on peaceful protest by imprisoning demonstrators.

Amid calls by rights groups for its abolition, the controversial law was amended in 2014 and again in 2016. The latter change was made under the current National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government.

Under the draft bill distributed to lawmakers on Monday, Article 4 (d) of the legislation would require would-be protesters planning peaceful assemblies and processions to inform police in advance of not only their agenda and estimated numbers, but also the estimated costs and the identity of the person or organization who will cover the cost.

It also adds a new provision to the Offenses and Penalties chapter of the law prescribing a prison sentence of up to three years for provoking or exhorting others to organize or participate in demonstrations by bribing or paying them money or doing anything else with the intention of harming the stability, rule of law, peace and tranquility of the community and public morality.

Lawmaker U Ba Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy he believed the amendments would not impact peaceful protesters. He said it was aimed at those who would mastermind demonstrations with hidden agendas.

“There are some who exploit people’s rights to peaceful assembly and processions. I think [the aim of the amendments is] to prevent that,” the lawmaker said.

The bill will be debated during the upcoming parliamentary sessions.