May 1, 2009 (DVB), A Burmese lawyers group who recently called for an end to the Unlawful Association Act, under which many dissidents have been sentenced, were today declared an illegal organization by the Burmese government.
The Thailand-based Burma Lawyers' Council last month 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.
But a statement in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper today said that the BLC had been declared unlawful.
"The Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council believes and assumes that the objectives and acts of the Burma Lawyers’ Council and its members, and related organizations and persons are hurtful to the rule of law in the Union of Myanmar, stability of the State and community peace," it said.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, the act has so far been used to sentence 365 political activists.
Lawyer Pho Phyu was sentenced in March to four years imprisonment after representing four farmers arrested in January after complaining to the International Labour Organisation of land seizures by the military.
U Myo, a legal analyst with BLC, said the law was being used beyond its remit.
"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."
He added that the act, which was endorsed by the British occupiers of Burma in 1908, was no longer suitable.
According to AAPP there are around 17 lawyers serving sentences in Burmese prisons.
Reporting by Francis Wade and Aye Nai