Saturday, August 19, 2017

MPs speak out against Section 66(d)


The Telecommunications Law’s section 66(d) should be abolished, MPs said on July 25 in the Amyotha Hluttaw.

The call was made by six of the 14 MPs who discussed the Telecommunications Amendment Bill at Tuesday’s meeting of the Amyotha Hluttaw. The proposed amendment was submitted on July 13.

MP U Tin Tun Aung of Constituency 5, Magwe Region, said the telecommunications law aims to control telecom operators and subscribers, and the whole law relates to technology. The penalties for accessing and interrupting a telecommunications network or releasing a virus with the intention to cause damage stated in section 66(a) and (b) are necessary, but the penalties stated in sections 66(c) and (d) are already in the penal code, he said.

Crimes in sub-section (c) (stealing, cheating, misappropriating or mischief) are already punishable under penal code.

Crimes in sub-section (d) (extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, undue influence or threatening) are already punishable under penal code.

“This punishment is not required in the telecommunications law and is the opposite what is intended by the law. The penal code is already there to protect us and to punish someone who commits these crimes,” he said.

“To prevent personal attacks and defamation of national leaders, the Tatmadaw and its leaders, the prosecution and punishment of citizens and journalists is slipping away from good democratic procedures practiced globally.

Using 66(d) to charge people has the effect of preventing criticism of authority, and can also prevent pointing out of corruption, injustice and weakness in authority. Therefore, it will slow the rule of law and the spread of democracy. For these reasons, Section 66(d) should be abolished,” U Tin Tun Aung told the Amyotha Hluttaw.

MP U Okkar Min of Constituency 8, Tanintharyi Region, said 66(d) does not follow democratic principles and does not conform to human rights requirements. He added that the law is alarming the public, so it must be abolished.

MP U Ye Htut of Constituency 5, Sagaing Region, said, “If 66(d) is not abolished, those who want to oppress the citizens can use it to harm the image of the democratic government. If laws that can be used for oppression are left alone, then the journey to democracy will go backwards.”

MP U Than Soe of Constituency 4, Yangon Region, said Section 66(d) is an unnecessary law and should be abolished, adding that in a democracy, the peoples’ wishes should be taken into consideration.

However, MP U Kyaw Naing of Yangon Region’s Constituency 12 warned, “If section 66(d) is annulled, the number of people who commit offences relating this section will increase, paving the way for more offences.”

MP U Zaw Min of Sagaing Region Constituency 6, who is chair of the Amyotha Hluttaw bill committee, said Section 66(d) is needed because it prevents someone from intentionally writing something online that is false and severely damaging to another.

“The word ‘defamation’ that is included in 66(d) needs to be amended. Also, we need to hear from those who favour granting bail,” he said.

Military Hluttaw representative Major Thet Min Oo said that not only human rights but also political, economic and executive consideration should be taken into account in discussing the amendment bill.

“There is no clear definition of ‘an individual’ in 66(d), so it should be defined,” he said.

The amendments seek to delete the crimes of “coercing, restraining wrongfully and undue influence” from 66(d); substitute Section 80, which requires ministry approval to facilitate prosecution; change the crimes under sections 66(a), (b) and (d) to bailable offenses; and add a new section, 80(d), to restrict complaints of defamation to those who are affected or their representative.

Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than said the Amyotha Hluttaw bill committee will reply to the suggestions made by MPs.

Telecommunications Law was approved on October 13, 2013, by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and has been used to charge 76 people so far.