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A proposal to abolish the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act was rejected by Burma’s lower house on Wednesday.
Critics allege that the act is widely used by the Burmese government to persecute political activists and journalists. It was adopted by a post-independence parliament while the country was wracked by civil war as communists and Karen secessionists fought with the Burmese state.
Article 5 of the act makes it illegal to: “spread false news” or “to rally people” or “to make the public lose trust in the State’s economy.”
National League for Democracy MP Win Myint of Irrawaddy’s Pathein [Bassein] Township on 20 May proposed the abolition of the act, asserting that its requirements are already met by the country’s existing Penal Code.
The proposal was rejected in a vote by MPs, with just 50 votes in favour, 265 against, and 17 abstentions.
“The act was adopted by the nominal ‘Rangoon government’ when the whole country was in a state of emergency. Certain provisions in it already exist in the Penal Code,” said Win Myint.
“The law allows the authorities to lay additional punishments on political activists and members of the public at any time, for any reason. It is unacceptable to have such a law in a period of supposed democratic transition.”
A previous proposal to abolish the act had been submitted to the lower house in 2011 by MP Thein Nyunt of Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township, but this similarly failed.
In March of this year, a freelance journalist was arrested under the act following a request from Police Special Branch for mocking government and military leaders in a satirical post on Facebook.