Saturday, August 19, 2017

Debate on 'midnight knocks' continues

As a discussion in parliament continued yesterday over proposed amendments to the law requiring citizens to report overnight guests, military and elected MPs found themselves on opposite sides.

Discussions started in the Amyotha Hluttaw on May 20, but due to time constraints five MPs who registered to speak had not been able to.

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

Echoing comments made in the previous hluttaw session by one of his colleagues, military MP Colonel Hla Win Aung said national security would be in jeopardy if the bill was approved.

“Removing the sections … means destroying the security fence of the country. You need to be aware of how big the danger of illegal Bengali immigrants is,” he told parliament.

Col Hla Win Aung said he had heard that an al-Qaeda leader announced that a movement of Islamic extremists would target India, western Myanmar and Bangladesh, and that security should be a priority.

U Aung Thein, an MP for Bago Region’s number 12 constituency, said the practice of registering overnight guests did not belong in a democratic country.

“It is not in line with democracy. Most democratic countries don’t adopt such laws because they have good security,” he said.

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.

Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than announced that the Amyotha Hluttaw Bill Committee would take the comments into consideration.

 Translation by Thiri Min Htun