Thein Sein Repeals Repressive Law on Public Speeches

By The Irrawaddy 16 January 2013

Burmese President Thein has repealed a draconian law that was used to stifle public speeches and sentence dissidents to lengthy spells in prison under the previous military regime, according to an announcement in a state-owned newspaper on Wednesday.

The Burmese-language version of The New Light of Myanmar carried an announcement signed by President Thein Sein, which stated he had revoked Law 5/96, or the Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Oppositions.

It provided for up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone who criticizes the government in speeches or written statements that “belittle the National Convention” and make people misunderstand its proceedings.

Enacted in 1996 by the military regime, the law was intended to silence critics of the government’s national convention and its preparations to draft a controversial Constitution, which was completed in 2008. It also intended to keep exile groups from working against the regime.

The harsh law is one of several laws that were used by the junta’s State Peace and Development Council in past decades to use the judiciary to crush dissent. Several similar laws still remain in effect.