CSOs urge amendment of guest registration law
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.