MPs push to scrap law
Most members of the bill committe support withdrawing the controversial Emergency Provisions Act, but a USDP lawmaker and military MP are pushing for an update rather than an overhaul.
MILITARY MPs and elected lawmakers are set to spar over a controversial law that has been used to jail political dissidents and carries a potential death penalty for saboteurs and conveyors of state secrets.
The Pyithu Hluttaw Bill Committee wants to withdraw the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, arguing that it perpetuates injustices like the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians and politicians.
But two members of the committee – a Union Solidarity and Development Party representative and a military MP – are pushing instead for a downsized version of law, or an amendment that creates restrictions on its application, rather than scrapping the legislation entirely.
U Tun Tun Hein (NLD; Nawngcho), chair of the Pyithu Hluttaw Bill Committee, called the law unnecessary in an era of multi-party democracy, and said it was not appropriate to allow for the suppression of citizens’ rights.
“We are submitting to withdraw this law to protect our citizens from injustice,” he told the Pyithu Hluttaw yesterday, adding that the law has mainly been employed to retaliate against activists.
The bill committee submitted the proposal to withdraw the act after discussions with the Pyithu Hluttaw Public Affairs Management Committee, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues, the Union Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
U Tun Tun Hein said through successive governments there were examples of the act being misused by those in power. He added that several other repressive laws already include similar provisions that lead to the creation of political prisoners, including the Official Secrets Act, provisions of the Public Order (Preservation) Act, the Unlawful Associations Act and the 1975 State Protection Act. The 2008 constitution also contains provisions for calling a State of Emergency – and suspending civilian rights – should the nation come under threat.
U Steven, secretary of the bill committee, and lower house military representative Brigadier General Maung Maung submitted a counterproposal to amend the offending provisions of the emergency act, rather than withdrawing the law.
The emergency act should be withdrawn only following the issuance of a new, improved iteration of the law that can ensure the relevant protection of state law and order, U Steven (USDP; Kengtung) said.
Brig Gen Maung Maung supported the motion to update the act and make adjustments that will prevent its misuse, instead of abolishing the law.
The other 13 members of the 15-member bill committee agreed to scrap the law, however.
MPs who want to debate the Emergency Provisions Act in the Pyithu Hluttaw have until August 3 to register.
– Translation by Emoon