Union Parliament Passed NGO Law

By The Irrawaddy 1 July 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s Union Parliament passed the Association Registration Law last week, a ruling party lawmaker said.

The new law, which was drafted by civil society organizations and lawmakers in November last year, provides voluntary registration procedures for local and international NGOs and contains no restrictions or criminal punishments.

The law forms a key piece of legislative reform for the development of Burma’s civil society sector, which had remained stifled under the former military regime.

“It was passed in Union Parliament on June 25. We sent it to President Thein Sein already and he will respond in two weeks,” said Lower House Public Affair Committee Secretary Tin Maung Oo.

“It was first discussed in the Lower House and then it was submitted to the Upper House with 28 amendments and the Upper House agreed to 25 amendments,” said the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP.

“Now, the most important part of the law is that there is no punishment, it’s quite a contrast to the previous law. Because in the past the government didn’t encourage civil society,” he said. “We also had several public hearings with civil society. Even compared to some other ASEAN countries, it’s more democratic.”

The new law will replace the Law Relating to Forming of OrganizationsNo. 6/88, which was enacted by the military regime shortly after it seized power through a coup in September 1988.

The draconian law contained broad, vaguely-defined restrictions that effectively banned any civil society organization from registering unless it maintained close ties to the government. It carried prison sentences of up to three years for those who were members of an unregistered NGO.