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Monthly Chronology January 2013 Trends

As events unfolded throughout January it appears clear that there is still far to go in terms of bringing Burma's Judiciary into the twenty-first century. While some steps have been taken forward, the continued use of restrictive laws such as sections 18 and 19 of the penal code (see update on individual cases) tell the observer that Burma is still far from being the democracy it claims to be striving for. Sections 18 and19 refer to the peaceful assembly and peaceful procession laws that have been used to block rather than enable peaceful demonstration. After twenty-five years the Government has lifted its restrictions on public gatherings (law 2/88). The order dates from 1988, when a military government took power after crushing pro-democracy protests. Correspondents say an end to the ban has been demanded by the international community and has been widely flouted at protests in recent years. The state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said the law was being axed because it was not in line with the constitution. It quoted officials as saying that basic rights, such as freedom of expression, were now constitutionally guaranteed, however these fundamental human rights continue to be ignored. In December 2011, a "Peaceful Assembly Law" was implemented specifically allowing public protests. However, permission must be obtained in advance, without which organizers are subject to penalties including prison terms. Several people have been arrested under the statute (Irrawaddy).

Also this month Government and NGO officials gathered in Nay Pyi Taw last week for a seminar focused on reforming the country's justice system, an important step in the overall reform process. The two-day "Promoting Justice Sector Development in New Democracies"  seminar, co-hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Attorney General's Office, drew 180 participants to Nay Pyi Taw. "Justice sector development is crucial for the fundamental rights of citizens." Attorney General Dr Tun Shin said in his opening address on January 24.

Myanmar has repealed a military decree used by the former military government to sentence dissidents to extended prison terms, state media reported this week, the latest step in the recently elected government's bid to edge toward democracy. Decree 5/96, enacted in 1996, laid out prison sentences of up to 20 years for anyone who wrote or delivered speeches that could undermine the "peace and stability of the nation." President Thein Sein, in a signed announcement in the New Light of Myanmar daily, a government mouthpiece, said that he was revoking the measure. There are still however several similar laws still in place.   

While calls from the Burmese Lower House for a ceasefire in Kachin, sporadic fighting is still going on. Also this month the long awaited return to Burma by two leading members of AAPP: Tate Naing and Bo Kyi, who returned to Rangoon this month 16 years after they formed the AAPP in exile. During this trip, the two activists discussed with authorities for the release of political prisoners and the rehabilitation of former political prisoners. Though they are able to return to Burma after having had their names removed from the blacklist, the two representatives commented that many problems are still faced by ex political prisoners inside Burma.

For more  information:
Bo  Kyi  (Joint  Secretary):      +66  (0)  81  962  8713