Upper House Passes Bill Repealing Overnight Guest Registration

By Tin Htet Paing 3 June 2016

RANGOON — A bill amending and repealing provisions of Burma’s colonial-era Ward or Village Tract Administration Law—which required citizens to register overnight guests—was approved in the Upper House of Parliament on Friday.

A bill submitted to the Upper House of Parliament by the Bill Committee in early May revoking all sections of the original law referring to overnight guest registration was tabled by elected parliamentarians and military-appointees in the chamber.

Originating in 1907, modified by the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs in 2012 and most recently updated in January 2016, the law requires citizens to inform local government officials when guests spend the night in their homes, regardless of how long the stay is.

The new bill has removed articles 13(g) and 17 from the original law, which demand that citizens report overnight guests or get penalized for disobeying.

Military lawmakers had claimed in previous sessions that revoking these provisions would jeopardize the country’s national security, while National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers argued the new bill was drafted in line with democratic norms.

Some civil society organizations, however, recommended maintaining the guest-reporting requirement in some remote areas of the country due to weak law enforcement.

Nonetheless, at Friday’s parliamentary session, Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than oversaw a secret ballot from all lawmakers passed as per recommendations from the bill committee.

Dr. Myat Nyarna Soe, secretary of the Upper House Bill Committee, said that the revocation of some provisions from the original law was the decision of the Upper House of Parliament and will still need to pass the lower chamber.

“The Upper House decided to approve the bill based on consensus in the chamber,” he said. “Now, the bill still needs to pass the lower chamber.”

Tin Myint, permanent secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry, told The Irrawaddy on Friday the ministry will respect any decision of the Union Parliament, saying the it has the right to decide how laws are written since it is the legislative branch of the government.

“Our ministry drafted the law for the sake of the country,” he said. “But we have to accept the decision of the parliamentarians who think certain sections [of the law] are no longer appropriate.”