Lower house passes bill on per­sonal free­doms

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

Rare rul­ing party dis­sen­sion and op­po­si­tion from mil­i­tary MPs were not enough to sink a bill on per­sonal free­doms and pri­vacy pro­tec­tion.

DE­SPITE ob­jec­tions from mil­i­tary MPs and un­char­ac­ter­is­tic dis­sen­sion from within the rul­ing party ranks, a bill aimed at pro­tect­ing cit­i­zens’ per­sonal free­doms and se­cu­rity was ap­proved at a Pyithu Hlut­taw ses­sion on Septem­ber 20.

A main stick­ing point for mil­i­tary MPs as well as sev­eral Na­tional League for Democ­racy law­mak­ers was Sec­tion 8 of the bill, a clause per­tain­ing to an is­sue gov­ern­ments across the globe are grap­pling with: sur­veil­lance.

“No one may trail, de­tect or in­ves­ti­gate in a way that can ag­gra­vate a cit­i­zen’s per­sonal free­dom and se­cu­rity or could af­fect hu­man dig­nity with­out per­mis­sion in ac­cor­dance with the law,” the sec­tion reads.

Ma­jor Myint Maung ar­gued that the se­cu­rity of the state should be given pri­or­ity over per­sonal free­doms, point­ing to “in­ci­dents” in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and Myan­mar’s own his­tory as proof of the need to give pref­er­ence to na­tional se­cu­rity.

He ar­gued that un­due con­straints would weigh down the morale of se­cu­rity per­son­nel con­cerned about their abil­ity to ef­fec­tively do their job.

He also took his time be­fore law­mak­ers to ac­cuse the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-dom­i­nated hlut­taw of bend­ing to pro­vi­sions of the con­sti­tu­tion to suit its agenda, ar­gu­ing that guar­an­tees of per­sonal se­cu­rity in the char­ter were be­ing used to jus­tify the pro­tec­tion bill, while other acts of the leg­is­la­ture clearly ig­nored con­sti­tu­tional bounds.

He re­ferred to re­peal or amend­ment of mul­ti­ple state se­cu­rity laws and the State Coun­sel­lor Law, which mil­i­tary MPs ar­gued at the time was a clear abuse of power.

But U Tun Tun Hein (NLD; Nawng­cho), chair of the lower house Bill Com­mit­tee, of­fered a force­ful de­fence of the pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion.

“The bill was drawn up ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion. Sec­tions 357 and 352 say to en­act such a law. So the bill has been drawn up,” he said.

Sec­tion 357 reads, “The Union shall pro­tect the pri­vacy and se­cu­rity of home, prop­erty, cor­re­spon­dence and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions of cit­i­zens un­der the law sub­ject to the pro­vi­sions of this con­sti­tu­tion.”

The bill in­cludes sim­i­lar lan­guage on homes, other prop­erty and pri­vacy pro­tec­tions. Pro­po­nents have called it a con­sol­i­da­tion of the demo­cratic gains of re­cent years.

War­rant­less home ar­rests and sur­veil­lance of per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tions are for­bid­den in the bill, among other pri­vacy pro­tec­tions.

Penal­ties are also pro­vided for breach of its pro­vi­sions – a prison sen­tence of min­i­mum six months to max­i­mum five years, or a fine of K300,000 (US$247) to K2.5 mil­lion.

Maj Myint Maung and U Tun Tun Hein gave com­pet­ing pre­sen­ta­tions in a bid to sway law­mak­ers, with the Bill Com­mit­tee chair ul­ti­mately win­ning out in a sur­pris­ing close vote. His pre­sen­ta­tion scored 208 votes in favour, while Maj Myint Maung re­ceived 185.

Lt-Col Moe Kyaw Oo ar­gued that while ob­tain­ing “ad­vanced per­mis­sion” – an ap­pendage of some of the bill’s clauses – might be fea­si­ble in some in­stances, tak­ing ac­tion on mat­ters of ur­gency could not af­ford to be de­layed by per­mis­sion-seek­ing.

“In bor­der ar­eas, de­lay to trail, de­tect, in­ves­ti­gate and ar­rest­ing could be hours be­cause of the process of ap­ply­ing for per­mis­sion and cit­i­zens’ lives might be in dan­ger,” he said, propos­ing that in such cases, the mil­i­tarycon­trolled Min­istry of Home Af­fairs would be bet­ter suited to give timely au­tho­ri­sa­tion.

Even the prove­nance of the bill was sub­ject to some dis­pute this week. Of­fi­cially it was put for­ward by the Bill Com­mit­tee, but U Thein Tun (USDP; Kyaung­gone) told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that he had heard par­lia­ment’s Le­gal Af­fairs and Spe­cial Cases As­sess­ment Commission was be­hind the leg­is­la­tion.

U Kyaw Soe Linn from the Pyithu Hlut­taw Bill Com­mit­tee also told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that the bill was drafted and sent by the le­gal commission, but the day prior U Tun Tun Hein in­sisted that his com­mit­tee was its au­thor.

Asked if he was con­cerned about the rel­a­tively close vote in an NLD-dom­i­nated par­lia­ment that has largely passed leg­is­la­tion and mo­tions by wide mar­gins since law­mak­ers took their seats in Fe­bru­ary, U Tun Tun Hein replied, “They de­cide with their own brain. Law­mak­ers will give a vote in favour if they think it should be favoured. It is their own de­ci­sion.”

‘[Con­sti­tu­tional] sec­tions 357 and 352 say to en­act such a law. So the bill has been drawn up.’

U Tun Tun Hein Pyithu Hlut­taw Bill Com­mit­tee chair

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.