Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Group’s application to stage protest delayed by authorities

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A group led by an independent electoral candidate has applied to stage a demonstration under Burma’s newly enacted right to demonstrate and march law, but the application has been returned.

Demonstration organizer Win Cho
Demonstration organizer Win Cho.
The authorities told independent politician Win Cho to re-apply for a permit to stage a protest after the law is enacted and the Home Affairs Ministry announces the procedures.

“The township head phoned me, saying a reply letter would be sent,” said Win Cho, who stood for a parliamentary seat in the 2010 election for the Dala Township constituency.

President Thein Sein signed the bill on December 2. The group applied for a demonstration permit on Monday to stage a protest on Saturday.

On June 5, Win Cho applied for a similar permit on the basis of the Constitution, which mentions the right to protest. The authorities rejected that application.

“Now we know who has the authority, but we don’t know who has the responsibility for the authority. We will apply again because we want to know who has the responsibility,” Win Cho said.

He said that his group would submit a complaint letter to the Home Affairs Ministry, urging it to enact the required laws and regulations as soon as possible.

The group’s planned demonstration was to express support for national reconciliation, economic development and equality. About 50 people planned to participate in the demonstration, which would have included speeches and distribution of brochures.

Win Cho said he was testing the law to see if the authorities would honour the spirit of the bill. Critics have said that the bill also included points that give the authorities the right to demand excessive information about the organizers who want to demonstrate and also would allow it to reject a permit on vague grounds.

“The township police chief can reject applications,” a lawyer, Aung Thein, told Mizzima.

He noted that the law has many restrictions such as permission to demonstrate must be sought at least five days in advance from the authorities concerned and “biographies” of leaders must be provided in addition to a designated time and location and the number of people who will participate.

“As usual, they [the authorities] are trying to protect themselves as much as they can by imposing restrictions. If they don’t know the people who organize the demonstration and the people who will deliver speeches, they will not know who they must arrest when required,” Aung Thein said.

If people stage a protest without permission, they can be sentenced to one year in prison or fined 30,000 kyat (about US $30) or both.
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