CSOs urge amend­ment of guest reg­is­tra­tion law

The Myanmar Times - - News - AUNG KYAW MIN aungkyawmin@mm­times.com

RIGHTS groups are mak­ing a last­minute ap­peal to par­lia­ment to amend the con­tro­ver­sial 2012 Ward and Vil­lage-Tract Ad­min­is­tra­tion Law.

In a let­ter sent to the Pyithu Hlut­taw on Au­gust 9, over 40 civil so­ci­ety groups pre­sented a 10-point agenda of sug­gested changes.

The ex­ist­ing law in­cludes a con­tro­ver­sial clause re­quir­ing res­i­dents to re­port to the ward or vil­lage tract ad­min­is­tra­tor the names of overnight guests, or face penal­ties.

The CSOs de­manded the law – which also de­lin­eates the guide­lines for lo­cal gov­er­nance and bu­reau­cracy – must be brought into line “with democ­racy and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights”.

The leg­is­la­tion has been a sub­ject of con­tention in par­lia­ment as well, bring­ing to a head dif­fer­ences be­tween mil­i­tary MPs’ fo­cus on se­cu­rity, and the Na­tional League for Democ­racy law­mak­ers’ pledge to put an end to the sys­temic cre­ation of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

The NLD has ar­gued that the law, and es­pe­cially its ret­ro­grade overnight guest stip­u­la­tions, are a “dis­grace” to the coun­try.

Ma Thin­zar Shun­lei Yi, from the Ac­tion Com­mit­tee for Democ­racy De­vel­op­ment, said the CSOs’ joint rec­om­men­da­tions have been sent to the Pyithu Hlut­taw Bill Com­mit­tee, le­gal ex­perts, the Union At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice and the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs.

“We must push for the amend­ments un­til the law is changed by the hlut­taw,” she said yes­ter­day.

The CSOs urged the gov­ern­ment to drop the pun­ish­ments in the leg­is­la­tion that can re­sult in the im­pris­on­ment of those who fail to reg­is­ter their overnight vis­i­tors.

Un­der the mil­i­tary junta, the au­thor­i­ties would search pri­vate homes in the mid­dle of the night un­der the pre­tence of check­ing for un­reg­is­tered guests in or­der to ha­rass and de­tain ac­tivists. Un­der then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment the law was used to de­tain ac­tivists who were forced into hid­ing af­ter the vi­o­lent crack­down by the Myan­mar Po­lice Force on a stu­dent protest at Let­padan in Bago Re­gion in March 2015.

The Ward or Vil­lage-Tract Ad­min­is­tra­tion Law, which was passed in 2012 and re­placed two colo­nial-era laws, is a pow­er­ful tool for the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, which over­sees the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment that em­ploys ward and vil­lage-tract ad­min­is­tra­tors.

No­to­ri­ously, the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties de­ployed the law against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when an un­in­vited Amer­i­can stayed overnight il­le­gally in her com­pound in 2009.

The ver­sion of the bill ap­proved by the Amyotha Hlut­taw in March re­moved the overnight guest pro­vi­sion, but the draft that came be­fore the Pyithu Hlut­taw last month had re­stored those para­graphs.

The CSOs main­tain that the law also needs to re­work guide­lines for the ward and vil­lage tract elec­tions, so that any­one over the age of 18 can elect their lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tor, in­stead of lim­it­ing the vote to one per house­hold. The let­ter also sug­gested re­vis­ing some of the qual­i­fi­ca­tions, such as the overly strin­gent cit­i­zen­ship stip­u­la­tion, and the ed­u­ca­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tion, which proves a barrier to ap­pli­cants who have not at­tained a high level of for­mal train­ing.

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