Upper house MPs object to removal of ban on protest inducements
AN upper house lawmaker is challenging a decision by the lower chamber to remove a provision of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law making it illegal to incentivise individuals to join a demonstration.
Section 9(i) – which states that “no one is allowed to engage in a peaceful demonstration or procession by taking money or something else” – was removed by the Pyithu Hluttaw in amendments to the legislation earlier this year.
Parliamentarian U Aung Thein (NLD; Bago 12) was among four MPs to discuss the law on September 9, telling fellow lawmakers that he did not know why the lower house had removed the ban on inducements.
A known precedent for such behaviour made the ban on induced protests necessary, U Aung Thein argued.
“In some cases of assembly or procession, some people are paid money or something. During the 2015 election campaign, a political party that could afford to spend money paid K3000 [US$2.47] or K5000 to have a big group of supporters. It showed its strength by providing them with food or a hat or T-shirt. We have such examples,” he said.
Amyotha Hluttaw lawmaker U Soe Thein (NLD; Thanintharyi 10), also known as U Maung Soe, also argued for the importance of section 9(i).
He said he objected to its removal by the Pyithu Hluttaw because it was intended to deter people from recruiting protest participants, typically targeting the impoverished, who otherwise would have no desire to join.
The Pyithu Hluttaw’s amendment bill left seven of the legislation’s original points unchanged, amended 24 points, removed section 9(i) and added one point.
U Soe Thein also objected to the Pyithu Hluttaw addition, which prohibits “behaviour that would damage public properties and private properties at the permitted assembly point or along processional route and behaviour which would dirty the surroundings”.
He said the Public Property Protection Act already criminalised damaging public or private property with a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
Following last week’s discussion, the Amyotha Hluttaw speaker announced that the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law would be sent back to the upper house bill committee for review.