Parliament to decide on protest bill

A bill that will enshrine into law tight restrictions on the ability of Burmese to hold political demonstrations is to be discussed in parliament after being submitted this week by the home affairs minister.

An anonymous MP in the People’s Parliament, where the motion will be voted on in early October, told DVB that the draft bill with classified for parliamentary representatives only.

“It specified that permission [for rallies or demonstration] must be sought seven days prior to the event from township-level police commanders,” he said. Details on the location, date, time, designated routes of the rally and personal details of individuals giving speeches would also have to be handed over.

Curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate was aggressively ramped up following the September 2007 uprising. In the weeks after the bloody crackdown by police and army, the government banned gatherings of more than five people in public.

The man behind the bill, Home Affairs Minister Ko Ko, was a high-ranking official in the former junta, and has retained his Lieutenant General title. He claims to have written the bill in line with the 2008 constitution, which has been widely derided.

Critics of the new Burmese government claim it is a rebranded version of the junta that ruled until March this year, with many key players, including President Thein Sein, powerful forces in the old administration.

The nearly half century during which Burma was under military left little space for public displays of anger towards the country’s leaders – the infamous 1988 uprising resulted in the deaths of more than 3000 people after the army set about neding the protests.

Myo Nyunt, spokesperson of Democracy and Peace Party, which failed to win any seats in parliament in the 2010 elections, said the government’s ongoing “paranoia” made the likelihood of unrestricted protests slim.

Parliament has set 30 September as a deadline for its representatives to submit thoughts on the bill, and will decide whether or not to approve it next week.

Leave a reply