Lawyers group request abolition of Unlawful Association Act

Mar 30, 2009 (DVB), A Thailand-based Burmese lawyers group has requested that Burma's ruling junta abolish the Unlawful Association Act under which many political dissidents have been sentenced to imprisonment.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, the Act has so far been used by the ruling State Peace and Development Council to sentence 365 political activists.

It is used as a charge against people alleged to have connections with groups deemed illegal under Burmese law. Even members of parties not listed as unlawful, however, were being targeted, said U Myo, a legal analyst for Burma Lawyers Council.

"The SPDC is also jailing people [under the Act] from groups that are not listed as unlawful associations, such as [opposition party] National League for Democracy," he said.

"That is highly inappropriate under legal terms."

U Myo added that the Act, which was endorsed by the British occupiers of Burma in 1908, was no longer suitable.

Furthermore, he said, the junta is yet to revoke declaration of Unlawful Association upon armed groups that have cease-fire agreements with the government.

"According to what was written in the law, the junta has to declare that these groups are no more listed under Unlawful Associations when they make a cease-fire agreement them," said U Myo.

"They have not done it yet and that shows they are being dishonest."

On 18 March, lawyer Pho Phyu was sentenced to four years imprisonment under the Unlawful Associations Act.

He had been representing four farmers who were arrested in January after they complained to the International Labour Organisation of land seizures by the military.

According to AAPP there are around 17 lawyers serving sentences in Burmese prisons.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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