Thursday, September 21, 2017

Revised Section 66(d) amendment bill sent back to Amyotha Hluttaw

After making revisions to the bill amending the Telecommunications Law, the Pyithu Hluttaw has sent it back to the Amyotha Hluttaw, which initiated the bill.

The debate on the bill started in the Amyotha Hluttaw on July 13, and the bill was approved on August 2. The Pyithu Hluttaw debated and made more revisions and sent the bill back to the Amyotha Hluttaw.

Amyotha Hluttaw Director General U Lwin Oo said on Sunday that under legislative procedure, one Hluttaw proposes a bill and another Hluttaw discusses it, and if no revisions are made, the bill can then be sent to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for final approval. But if any revisions are made, the bill has to be sent back to the Hluttaw that originated the bill for further discussion.

The Amyotha Hluttaw proposed to replace “Not more than 3 years imprisonment” with “Less than 3 years imprisonment” with an aim to make violation of 66(d) a bailable offence, because punishment of 3 years imprisonment or more is not bailable, said U Tun Tun Hein, chair of the Pyithu Hluttaw Joint Bill Committee.

“The amendment will make it easier to change it into a bailable offence,” he said.

However, Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Tin Htwe and others said it should be amended to “Not more than 2 years imprisonment”, and the revision was agreed to by the bill committee.

“We want 66(d) to be bailable. So, we revised it according to the people’s wishes, but it is not possible to abolish it completely,” Bill Committee secretary U Kyaw Soe Lin said.

Although people have called for section 66(d) to be abolished, both Hluttaws want to maintain it with less severe punishment and making it a bailable offence. MP U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo said on August 18 that section 66(d) does not conform with the 2008 Constitution and penal code, so it should be abolished.

“Section 66(d) is now as notorious as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, the Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts (1975) and overnight guest registration (Ward or Village tract administration law), which were exploited to make trouble for the people,” he said.

U Tun Tun Hein responded, “Absolute freedom of speech cannot be found even in democratic nations. No one has total freedom of speech. Freedom is in accordance with existing laws. The Telecommunications Law is an existing law and thus freedom will have to comply with that law.”

Moreover, the word “defamation” should not be removed, he added. “If we remove the wording ‘defamation’, it will encourage defamation on communication networks, which will have adverse effects,” he said.

A total of 88 cases had been filed under 66(d) through August 17, according to a statement by a research team for the amendment of the Telecommunications Law.

During the previous government, there were seven such cases, of which five were judged. Under the new government, defendants in four cases have been detained without bail. The cases include seven filed by the Tatmadaw, seven by the NLD, and eight by intermediaries for insulting State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Eleven cases have been filed against the media and 17 journalists are facing trial, the researchers said.