Myanmar ends 25-year-old ban on public gatherings

Featured Politics South East Asia - January 30th, 2013

The reformist government of Myanmar has abolished a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people, state media reported on Tuesday.

State-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said the law was axed because it was not in line with the constitution, which ensures basic rights such as freedom of expression.

The order was issued in 1988 when the military junta took power after crushing pro-democracy protests and has been used as a tool to stamp out dissent against the military regime.

The ban on public-gatherings was eased in 2010 when President Thein Sein took over the new government the following year and instituted sweeping political and economic reforms, including revocation of strict media censorship.

Still, the order has been widely flouted at protests in recent years as increasing public awareness of their new-won freedoms prompted citizens to exercise their rights, reports AP.

Many have expressed concern that Myanmar could backslide as it emerges from decades of oppressive military regime amid the violence in northern Kachin state between the military and ethnic rebels.

The defence ministry said in a statement published in a state newspaper on Tuesday that reports from foreign embassies and media ere one-sided and failed to mention the “terrorist” acts carried out by the Kachin Independence Army.

The army was carrying out its duty to ensure the people’s safety and smooth and secure transportation, and “has inevitably launched military operations in self-defence,” the ministry said.