YANGON - Jailed political activists say the time has come for the new parliament to discuss abolishing Section 505(b) of the Penal Code and Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, which, they argue, are used to suppress the people
Activists Naw Ohn Hla and Tin Htut Paing, who have been jailed for more than five years by separate courts for their protest demanding information about the death of Letpadaungtaung resident Khin Win, were brought to the Botahtaung Township court on March 7 to face additional charges under Section 18.
“Many students face legal action under Section 505(b) and Section 18 for their protests against the National Education Law. We’ve already been charged, and we’re still facing additional charges. Section 505(b) was created in the colonial period. It’s wrong that this so-called ‘democratic’ government is still practicing it after the country’s independence. Peaceful demonstration should be allowed in democracies. Section 18 was created to control it. The [outgoing] government took power in 2010 in a controversial election. It did not represent the desires of the people. Now, it’s time for the incoming government to take steps to amend these laws. It’s time for the new parliament to submit an urgent proposal to abolish these sections,” said Tin Htut Paing on March 7.
“We often said Section 18 is not needed for the nation. It would be better if the new government acts quickly to amend these laws. If not, we will have to tell the incoming government about it. We don’t accept any law that suppresses the people. This section is not democratic,” said Naw Ohn Hla after the court hearing.
Activists Naw Ohn Hla, Tin Htut Paing and Sithu were charged under Section 18 at different courts—Botahtaung, Tamwe and Mingalataungnyunt, respectively—for their protest march on August 8, 2014, marking the 26th anniversary of the 8888 uprising. Sithu is still at large and has been pronounced a fugitive by the courts.
Tin Htut Paing was sentenced to more than five years in prison, and Naw Ohn Hla was sentenced to more than six years. They were convicted of several crimes for their protest on May 15 last year in front of the Chinese embassy, where they condemned the actions of Chinese mining companies in Letpadaungtaung.