World Bulletin / News Desk
Among those in the country's union parliament Tuesday to see speaker Man Win Khaing Than announce approval of a bill that revoked the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act were many who had fallen victim to it.
Tun Tun Hein, chairman of Lower House Bill Committee (which made the initial proposal), told Anadolu Agency that over half of parliament's current civilian lawmakers had action taken against them under the notorious section 5(j).
“It’s not safe for citizens while the act exists,” he said by phone. “Even the previous [pro-military] government used it against civilians.”
Section 5(j) -- for instigating "disturbances to the detriment of law and order, peace and tranquility -- was misused by successive military governments to perpetuate arbitrary arrests and to suppress the work of human rights and pro-democracy activists.
The bill was initially approved by the upper and lower houses in September and August respectively, bypassing and need for a vote by the union parliament (both houses).
The Act was enacted by the country’s first prime minister, U Nu, shortly after the country’s independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1948.
Independence saw ethnic armed organizations begin fighting the central government for greater autonomy and self-determination -- battles that became some of the world's longest running civil wars.
The Act granted sweeping authority to governments to prosecute individuals who disseminated “false news,” or were otherwise determined to have “jeopardized the state”.
Punishments included the death penalty, up to life in prison for treason or sabotage against the military and seven years jail for a sweeping range of other “offenses” against the state.
During former President Thein Sein's five-year rule (2010-2015), the act was used against political opponents, social activists and reporters.
In October 2014, five journalists from Bi Mon Te Nay, a local weekly publication, were arrested and jailed by Thein Sein's government after they were charged under the Act.
They had published a front-page story about an activist group statement, which falsely claimed that then-opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- currently state counselor -- and ethnic group leaders had formed an interim government to replace Thein Sein's administration.