» 01/30/2013, 00.00
Authorities lift decades-old ban on public gatherings
Adopted in the late 1980s by the then ruling military junta to stop dissent, the ban only allowed gatherings of less than five people. Now the government wants to abolish all laws and regulations contrary to the constitution in order to protect freedom of expression. However, police charges people demonstrating for peace in Kachin state.
(AsiaNews/Agencies) - Burma's 'reformist' government
has lifted a ban on public gatherings of more than five people that was ordered
in 1988 on the day a military junta took power after crushing nationwide
pro-democracy protests. The 25-year ban allowed the military to crack down on
pro-democracy groups and cancel the 1990 election won by the National League
for Democracy (NLD).
The state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper reported today that
Order No 2/88 was abolished as it was not in line with a section of the
constitution whereby existing laws should remain valid as long as are not
contrary to the constitution. The latter guarantees basic rights such as
freedom of expression.
Over the years, the
order was used to crush opposition to the military regimes that held power
until the semi-civilian government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011.
His administration has
instituted political and economic liberalisation, including lifting strict
censorship, to breathe new life into the country.
some issues remain unresolved, such as tensions with ethnic minorities (Kachin
and Rohingya) and the military remains the real power behind the throne.
In December 2011, a 'Peaceful
Assembly Law' was implemented specifically to allow public protests. However,
under the statute permission must be obtained in advance, without which organisers
are subject to penalties, including prison terms.
In fact, even though Myanmar
authorities are now required to ensure greater freedoms, this has not stopped them
from being violated.
Recently, police charged
five members of a group of peace marchers currently walking
from Rangoon to Kachin capital Laiza. Although none of them has been
arrested, each could be sentenced to a year in prison for each charge if they
are brought before a court.
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