Number 505 in Burmese
Democracy = freedom of expression
The universal declaration of human rights was written in 1948. One of the basic principles of a democratic country is to comply with article 19.
505 is the number of a law dating from before the Universal Declaration of human rights. It comes from the time of the English colony, and stipulates in its paragraph (b) that:
Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public – whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility;
shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
The meaning of the words chosen as «likely to cause» or «alarm to the public», are so large that their interpretation can easily make this law an instrument of oppression. According to Robert San Aung, lawyer and human rights activist, it is the most widely used law today, to oppress those who hold divergent views of the State.
It has been used many times in four years, both against journalists and against activists who express their disagreement with the policy of the government, local authorities or companies “close” to the government.
Yan Naing Tun (left), during the Peace March organized by a youth group in 2012.
“Soft” dictatorship = a law to silence dissenting views
Yan Naing Tun was sentenced to seven months in prison under Article 505 for “disturbing public order” because he was one of the leaders of the peace march, that leave Rangoon to reach the capital of the Kachin state, Laiza, crossing very close combat zones.
Five journalists of the weekly publication Bi Mon Te Nay were convicted for publishing a “false report” in 2014.
It was an article on activists distributing a parodic leaflet announcing that Aung San Suu Kyi would form an interim Government. The activists, members of the Movement for Democracy Current Forces (MDCF) were also convicted.
Real instrument of repression, this law is also used repeatedly against some activists (such as Article 18 on Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration), as the leader of MDCF, Htin Kyaw.
For a single walk through 11 different districts of Rangoon, by distributing leaflets criticizing the Government, he was sentenced 11 times. All its sentences condemns him to make more than 13 years in prison.
A rigged case of the electoral campaign
In front of all national and international media, the authorities continue to abuse human rights and freedom of expression during the campaign.
The last blatant abuse of the law by authorities is the arrest of independent candidate Myat Nu Khaing, that contests for a Lower House seat in Pegu Division’s Phyu Township. The others main candidate in the township are the former president of the government party (USDP) and actual parliament speaker, U Shwe Man, and the former director general of the President’s Office, Ko Ko Kyaw.
She was arrested on oct 16 for her participation in a peaceful demonstration on Dec. 29, 2014.
The use of repressive laws continue to be tools in the hands of the authorities to silence political opponents or in this case to exclude a popular candidate which overshadows the elite.
Indeed, six others activists that participated in the same demonstration (among them are Nay Myo Zin and Naw Ohn Hla) have all been already jailed since the demonstration occurred and have been sentenced to four years and four months in prison in May 15.