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Peaceful assembly and march bill waits for president’s signature

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A major step forward for Burmese society will take place when President Thein Sein signs the bill approved by both houses of Parliament to guarantee the right to peacefully assemble and march in demonstrations.
A recent demonstration in Rangoon was stopped by police who dispersed the protest, saying it lacked a permit to demonstrate.  Photo: MizzimaHowever, observers said the bill, approved on November 22, did not specify when it would be sent to the president to sign.  

Home Minister Lieutenant General Ko Ko introduced the bill in the Lower House on September 26.   

While some politicians criticized the bill, others said it’s a step forward in the early stages of moving toward democratic principles.  

The bill specifies that permission to demonstrate must be sought at least five days in advance from the township police chief concerned and biographies of leaders must be submitted to authorities, a requirement criticized by some observers.

“I think that is intended to allow authorities to restrict things by verbal orders. I see many points that reflect restrictions in the law,” said an opposition activist lawyer Pho Phyu.

He said requiring the authority's permission and seeking intrusive information is a way to discourage or deny permits.

The bill says the relevant township police chief, along with the approval of the township’s administrative office chief, must inform leaders who want to protest 48 hours prior to the designated time of the protest.  

If the request to demonstrate is rejected, the group can submit an appeal to the relevant state or region police chief within seven days after the rejection, according to the bill.  

 One MP, who asked for anonymity, said: “The Constitution does not forbid military personnel from staging a protest. It uses the word 'every citizen'.”  

Section 12 (a) of the bill submitted by the home minister said, “[Protestors cannot do] anything that would seem to create a disturbance…” MP Khaing Maung Yi tried to remove "seem to" from the sentence, but his effort failed.  

“Even if nothing happens, the words ‘seems to’ can create problems. How will we measure the phrase ‘seems to create disturbance?’ But, the home minister would not accept my suggestion. So, I said if they could not remove it, I would withdraw my suggestion. Even if the case was put to a vote, it was sure that I would be defeated,” he said.

Section 12 (e) of Chapter V of the bill originally said, “Chanting slogans and shouting are not allowed,” but a Lower House MP from the Shan Nationalities and Development Party submitted a motion to remove the phrase “chanting slogans” and the motion was approved.

Lower House MP Khaing Maung Yi of the National Democratic Force (NDF) put forward a motion urging the Parliament to replace the “demanding biographies of protestors” requirement with requiring “names and addresses of protestors,” but the motion was rejected.  

“I said that police should not demand unnecessary facts. I was defeated. I got 26 yes votes, nine neutral votes and 349 no votes,” he said.  

Meanwhile, a seven-person group led by Difference and Peace Party chairman Nay Myo Wai is preparing to stage a protest on December 12 under the new law, which they expect to go into effect next week.
Last Updated ( Friday, 02 December 2011 23:05 )  

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