Burma urged to reconsider law restricting NGO activities
28 August 2013: The Human Rights Watch said the current draft associations law would severely constrain activities of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Burma.
HRW’s statement on Sunday said the draft law should be revised or discarded as it does not meet intertional human rights standards.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, said: “This draft law would give the Burmese government broad authority to refuse to let a group operate and send association leaders and members to prison if the group functions without permission.”
“It seems the government wants to keep its stranglehold over civil society, effectively muzzling watchdog groups during this critical reform period.”
The bill, if enacted, would require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain official registration to operate; provide overbroad and vaguely defined regulatory authority to a body under effective military control; and subject groups to arbitrary decisions without appeal.
Members of unregistered groups could face criminal penalties, according to the statement.
Robertson said: “The proposed associations law could be easily misused to deregister groups that criticize government policies and practices.”
Many community-based groups have already expressed strong opposition to the draft law, rejecting many of its provisions and decrying the lack of consultation with civil society during its formulation.
A statement by 87 civil society organizations rejected the draft law and called on Burma’s Parliament to allow sufficient time for meaningful consultations and discussions.
The draft law also places restraints on international groups that could severely hamper their legitimate activities, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW stressed that the draft law should be revised to comply with international standards, making registration voluntary, and eliminating criminal and other penalties for organizations that do not register.
The draft Law Relating to the Forming of Organizations, made public on July 27, 2013 by the Public Affairs Management Committee, is slated for early debate in Burma’s national assembly.#