Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Revisions to overnight guest registration debated

Changes to a controversial law requiring citizens to report overnight guests were debated in parliament on May 20. The proposed amendments faced heavy criticism from the military.

Major Myo Tun Aung, a military-appointed MP, argued that removing the sections of the Ward or Village-Tract Administration Law laying out the registration of overnight guests could expose the public to danger and hamper protection.

Activists have slammed the law as infringing on human rights, and the National League for Democracy MPs have argued it is a “disgrace” to the country.

The bill proposes removing sections 13(g) and 17, for the reporting of overnight guests and inspections, from the law. It would also scrap penalties for not complying with section 17.

“If the provisions protecting the public are removed, there might be risks. If a tragedy occurs as a consequence of removing these sections lawmakers are responsible. We need to consider again whether to remove them,” Maj Myo Tun Aung told the upper house.

The current law, which was an update from colonial-era legislation, was introduced by the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs in 2012. Even if the ministry does not welcome the amendments, it will not be able to stop them because of the NLD’s majority in the parliament.

“There are terrorists who are pretending to be migrants, like in the west of the country, and we seized drugs and weapons in Myanmar. There was blast in a house in Pyin Oo Lwin where foreigners from a neighbouring country were staying,” said the major.

“We seized a whole car with drugs in Mingaladon township and also weapons and explosives were found there. If we could not uncover those cases, it would have catastrophic consequences. Therefore, we should consider [these amendments] from a national security perspective,” he said.

Fifteen MPs registered to debate the amendments but only 10 MPs had a chance to speak in the Amyotha Hluttaw session on May 20. Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than announced that the other MPs would be given the opportunity to speak in the next session on May 24.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun and San Layy