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In Asia, Singapore is one of the few countries left that does not permit its citizens to hold public protests. Out of the 20 or so countries in the region, less than five have governments that ban peaceful assembly outright: Burma, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and of course Singapore.
Even in China, a totalitarian state, there were 74,000 recorded protests in 2004. Our closest neighbour Malaysia has recognized that public protests are part and parcel of the nation’s political process.
Below is an article posted on the website Burma digest. In bold is the law in Burma prohibiting public gatherings. Note how similar it is to Singapore’s situation. And yet, we insist that we are a democratic society.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Khin Ma Ma Myo
16 Aug 06
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association”…(Article20, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations Assembly in 1988 is the most symbolic central one although the European Convention of 1950 has the most effective machinery. Nevertheless, ‘Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association’ was also defined in Article 11 of the European Convention.
In fact, Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association are at the heart of fundamental freedoms. These can be called political rights because they form the basis for people’s societal influencing and organization. These are also mentioned in the constitutions of democratic countries.
The freedom of assembly is the right to hold meetings indoors or outdoors and to organize demonstrations without interference from the authorities. In section (2) of the Burmese military regime SLORC (later changed to SPDC) order 2/88, it was stated as “Gathering, walking, marching in processions, chanting slogans, delivering speeches, agitation and creating disturbances on the streets by a group of 5 or more people is banned regardless of whether the act is with the intention of creating disturbance or of committing a crime or not”.
The freedom of association is the connecting bridge between the fundamental freedoms and the economic, social and cultural rights. As a freedom, it ensures the right to establish associations and to join them and resign from them freely. In Burma, under the 1907 (1957) Unlawful Association Act, a lot of democracy activists were detained because it allows for the detention of up to 3 years of anyone who is a member of or assists in any way an unlawful association. In addition, SLORC Order 1/91 stated as “The conduct of public services personnel remain clear of party politics.”
All these clearly prove the international human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime.
Not only prohibited by their order, the military regime opened fired on the unarmed demonstrators in uprisings.
The soldiers of one country became the murderers to its own civilians instead of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens. How awful!
In conclusion, since 1988, People of Burma have been deprived of the Freedom of Assembly and Association. They have got these rights only for 40 days out of 7470 days. I would like to ask international community to use your freedom for the sake of the human rights of 53 million Burmese people.