Lawyers' group slams ruling

May 5, 2009 (DVB), The secretary of an exiled Burmese lawyers group recently declared illegal by the Burmese government has reacted to the ruling by saying that the government is itself an illegal entity.

Last week the Thailand-based Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) was declared an illegal organisation under the Unlawful Association Act.

In April the BLC had called for the abolishment of the Unlawful Association Act, citing the malleability under which the government uses it to sentence opposition members, journalists and activists.

Aung Htoo, secretary of BLC, said that under the Unlawful Association Act, only the president, whose party is legitimately appointed to be the government, has authority to declare an organisation illegal.

"The State Peace and Development Council chairman is not the president of the country so their announcement carries no value and is completely out of the regulations appointed in the law," he said.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council is an offshoot of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, who came to power in a military coup in 1988.

"Even for the president to approve such a declaration, he or she would need to show strong evidence regarding the concerned group's committing of violent acts or its support of such activity by other groups or individuals."

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, the act has so far been used to sentence 365 political activists.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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