Burma’s Lower House of Parliament has approved amendment legislation removing the power for local authorities to deny applications for protest permits. The amended legislation now awaits Upper House approval.
The Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law of 2011 requires that all demonstrations be planned and in advance, with full details provided to local authorities for approval.
Prison terms and fines apply for staging a protest without a permit; however the Lower House on Wednesday passed a proposal reducing the severity of maximum jail sentences. Those guilty of staging an unpermitted protest would be liable to six months imprisonment, reduced from one year.
Whether or not the amended legislation becomes law, local authorities must still approve of a protest for it to legally go ahead. However Thura Aung Ko, chairman of the Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee, said under the revised law, authorities could be punished for denying permission to protest.
The law currently states that “[permission] cannot be denied when [the protest] is not in breach of the security of the State, rule of law, community’s peace and tranquillity, and public morality.”
Thura Aung Ko told DVB that as per the amendment, these “sufficient reasons” for denial have been removed and that “permission must be granted no matter what and without exception”.
The Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law has provided the terms for the arrest and detention of a glut of activists since 2011.
The refusal of demonstration permits and the subsequent arrest of protesters has been particularly common in relation to large scale economic projects such as the Latpadaung copper mine. Last month saw a string of arrests at the site, including that of one high profile activist.
Earlier this month, over 100 demonstrators turned out in Hanzada on the Irrawaddy delta to protest the need for official permission. A permit was granted on that occasion.