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Not in Theory, Not in Practice: Freedom of Assembly and Association in Burma

By Burma Partnership | October 15, 2012

The rights of peaceful assembly and association in Burma are fragile at best. The Burma government has enacted reforms to address this gap in human rights protection. Sadly the reforms are lacking and citizens are regularly denied any semblance of protection in relation to international human rights standards.

The Unlawful Associations Act1 and the NGO Registration Law haven’t been repealed; these remain large obstacles if Burma is to have freedom of assembly and association.

Many organizations are still listed as “unlawful” and the fact that the law remains in place is an ever-present threat for activists. There have been numerous instances of Kachin people being arrested and detained for suspected, but in no way proven, links to the Kachin Independence Organization. These incidences of “unlawful association” have only increased with the resumption of armed conflict in Kachin State since June 2011.

The current 1988 NGO Registration Law is overly restrictive and prohibits NGOs’ involvement in politics and advocacy for rule of law and good governance. The law also requires NGOs to pay an unrealistic amount, up to 500,000 kyat (around US$550), for registration fees.

Despite the approval by President Thein Sein on 2 December 2011 of the Peaceful Demonstration and Gathering Law, the government of Burma regularly arrests and intimidates peaceful protesters. Both assembly and association are still tightly controlled and restricted.

This paper was submitted to the Mr. Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Download the paper here.

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This post is in: Human Rights, Spotlight

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