18 number in Burmese
Creation of a repressive law for democratic transition!
From its validation in 2011, Article 18, the Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration Law, has received attention from human rights activists even if it seemed to be an improvement over the years of dictatorship where no demonstration were allowed.
Many in civil society has been accused and imprisoned with this law since then.
A broad movement was initiated in different organizations to demand its abolition.
January 5, 2014, Phyone Cho of the Group 88 Generation and Open Society, initiated a large demonstration against the law which brought together 60 other organizations of civil society.
For international community, double standards
The organizers must therefore request permission five days before holding a demonstration, but they must also reveal the content of what will be said or sung and the texts that could be distributed.
This law gives excessive power to the local authorities, often one-sided.
Once virulent Governments against the military junta have today put their diplomatic boots on.
Unofficially, they argue that this law is symptomatic of the difficulties of countries in transition.
After so many years of dictatorship and brainwashed, the decisions taken at Government level are poorly applied at the local level. And thus it would be those local authorities who use Article 18.
Yet it is clear that this law is applied differently depending on the character of the gatherings.
A tool to silence opponents
The absurdity and manifest abuse to human rights posed by this law is even more obvious in its application.
When one demonstration pass through several districts, each district has the possibility to take to court the organizers. Thus they receive prison sentences in each district.
A prisoner remains the symbol of the determination of the authorities:
He always openly criticized the policies of the president and his government. Currently he endures a sentence of more than 13 years in prison, in part because of Article 18.
Htin Kyaw at the exit of one of its trial. © 1998-2014, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, http://www.rfa.org
One of the main brakes on freedom of expression!
In July 2015, the Association of Assistance to Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB) still counted 120 political prisoners, and nearly 450 activists with current procedures, a number of them with Article 18, whereas the Chairman Thein Sein had promised that there would be no more prisoner of conscience at the end of 2013.
Article 18 is today the symbol of a power that no longer uses invariable violence and torture as before, but which relies on the law to silence its opponents, thereby remaining so fit to be seen on the international scenery.
Campaign against the so-called Article 18 by wearing a T-shirt with the number 18 crossed out, led by members of the Movement of Democratic Current Forces (MDCF).