Activists in the Pegu Division town of Nyaunglebin have been denied permission to hold a protest calling for amendments to the 2008 Constitution.
Bo Tauk, a former political prisoner and member of the Nyaunglebin Public Campaign Committee, said the local police had informed them that their bid to stage a protest on 25 April was rejected under the pretext that the proposed location for the rally falls within a “prohibited zone” for public demonstrations.
The activist leader said that the venue had previously hosted a rally by the National League for Democracy.
He said that the police also rejected permission on the basis that such a public demonstration might incite a religious riot.
A second request has been submitted to the Pegu [Bago] Division government requesting permission to stage the protest, said Bo Tauk, adding that his group were determined to go ahead with the rally as planned on Friday whether permission is granted or not.
Nyaunglebin police superintendent Tin Aung warned that if the organisers proceed with the rally without permission they will be prosecuted under existing laws.
Despite being signed into law in December 2011 by President Thein Sein, Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Act is a highly contested piece of legislation that has been widely denounced by domestic and international human rights groups, which claim that the law is being used to target activists who oppose major development projects.
Under Article 18 of the Act, organisers of an unapproved “assembly” or “procession” can be sentenced to a maximum of one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of 30,000 kyat (US$30) or both.
However, Article 5 of the same Act states that neither the local police nor the township authorities can deny permission for a peaceful protest, “when it is not in breach of the security of the State, rule of law, community’s peace and tranquillity, and public morality.”
Nonetheless, the legislation has been used across the country countless times by local authorities to deny protestors, most notably farmers and villagers who are campaigning to have lands returned that were seized from them during the era of the military junta.
Several protestors in Sagaing Division have likewise been arrested and jailed for campaigning for the closure of the controversial Latpadaung copper mine near Monywa.