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Henzada protestors say no more to Article 18

Residents in Irrawaddy Division’s Henzada marched through the delta town on Tuesday demanding citizen rights, constitutional reforms and the abolishment of Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

Article 18 states that a protestor needs government permission before they protest.

“We see Article 18 as an oppressive law that denies citizens from practicing their rights,” said protestorSein Thaung. “Every citizen has the right to express their opinion but the article, restricting this right, should be abolished.”

Around 100 protestors joined the march on Tuesday morning, carrying placards with their demands.

The rally did get official permission from local police, under the Article 18 that they were protesting against.

Demonstrators marched to the Township General Administration Office, where leaders gave speeches on the constitution and citizen rights.

“Without charter reforms we will never escape from poverty and this is why we are calling to amend the Constitution,” said High Court lawyer, Htein Win.

Any change to the Constitution requires approval from more than 75 percent of parliament.  The military, which hold 25 percent of seats in parliament, have the power to veto any bill that’s presented.

“Since the military controls 25% of the seats in the parliament they can hinder any effort to amend the charter,” said protest organiser, Sein Thaung. “Therefore we cannot do anything without their approval.”

Last week a committee was formed to implement constitutional changes recommended by the Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution (JCRC).

According to a statement, the 31-member panel, led by the deputy speakers of the upper and lower houses, aims to reform the charter for contemporary relevance, unity and peace among ethnic nationalities, and to keep pace with democratic reforms in the country.