Friday, August 18, 2017

Amyotha Hluttaw to discuss amendment of Section 66(d)

The amendment of Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law will be discussed in the Amyotha Hluttaw.

Protesters wearing T-shirts with the slogan ‘Amend 66(d) Telecommunication Law’ attend a rally in Yangon in January. Photo - EPAProtesters wearing T-shirts with the slogan ‘Amend 66(d) Telecommunication Law’ attend a rally in Yangon in January. Photo - EPA

U Kyaw Myo, deputy minister for Transport and Communications, submitted five points to be amended to the Amyotha Hluttaw on Thursday, including changing the ministry’s name; deleting the words ‘coercing’, ‘restraining wrongfully’ and ‘undue influence’; not requiring prior approval from the ministry for personal cases; allowing bail; and allowing only affected persons to file defamation lawsuits.

MPs who wish to speak on the amendment can submit their names before July 18.

U Kyaw Myo told the Hluttaw it must amend the law because the number of people filing complaints under Section 66(d) is increasing, as is the number of people who have been wrongfully accused.

“Other offences that need prior permission from the ministry to prosecute are technological offences and offences that are under the supervision of the ministry,” U Kyaw Myo told the Hluttaw.

He said these offences cannot be granted bail because according to Section 66(d), these are for offenses such as stealing money or property, lying, misuse and mischief.

“This amendment does not aim to repeal 66(d) but seeks to avoid wrongful prosecution by allowing bail and the ability to defend,” he told reporters.

“There has been much criticism of Section 66(d), not only from local organisations but international ones as well. It will become a cognizable case like before.” he said.

As defamation is already included in the penal code, bail for defamation will be included in the amendment. “When bail is granted, then that person has the right to mount a defence,” he said.

“This amendment has been very sudden, and the will of the public should be considered, but there are two sides to this. People’s opinions should be considered, but the protections in the law also should be preserved. It is all up to the Hluttaw, I can’t tell what changes are going to be made,” said U Kyaw Myo.

The amendment was approved by the Office of the Attorney General after fixes were made, and it was submitted to the Security, Peace and Stability, and Rule of Law Committee, which in turn, submitted it to the Union Government meeting on July 6. After the meeting, the bill was submitted to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for approval and implementation, he said.

“The part of the bill that states, ‘bail can be given’ could convey that the judge can also not grant bail, so it doesn’t really change the current law much. Bail must be given to everyone: to those people who slander Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or the Tatmadaw. The judge must give bail to everyone equally,” Poet Maung Saungkha, leader of the movement to amend the law, told The Myanmar Times.

The law was approved by Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on October 13, 2013, with the objective of providing quality telecommunications services to the public, regulating the telecom industry and protecting users.