YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s parliament amended a controversial law that requires people to obtain permission for public protests and subjects violators to penalties, including prison terms, state media reported Wednesday.
Under changes to the “Peaceful Assembly Law” the maximum penalty for those who cause unrest has been halved to 1 year in prison, while the penalty for those who fail to seek permission for protesting was halved to 6 months.
The amended version still requires people to seek permission for public protests but it has eliminated a clause from the original law saying that “authorities can reject the permission,” implying that protests will be allowed as long as they are peaceful.
Human rights groups have criticized the law, which was passed in December 2011 and has routinely been used to imprison land-grab victims and activists.
Activists and opposition politicians responded to the amendment with calls for the whole law to be scrapped, saying it violates the constitution and people should not have to ask for permission to protest.
“Whether it is amended or not, the peaceful assembly law itself contradicts Myanmar’s constitution, which allows freedom of assembly under Section 354 of the charter,” said Ko Ni, a lawyer and member of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team.