NGO laws in Myanmar restrictive, rights group says

Aug. 26, 2013 at 12:53 PM
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BANGKOK, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Draft legislation under review in Myanmar could give the government too much control over non-governmental organizations, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch said it was considered a draft law made available to the public in July was too restrictive. The organization said if it was passed in its current form, the government in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, could have too much control over civil organizations and free expression in the country.

"This draft law would give the Burmese government broad authority to refuse to let a group operate and send association leaders and members to prison if the group functions without permission," deputy director for Asia programs Phil Robertson said in a statement Sunday from Bangkok. "It seems the government wants to keep its stranglehold over civil society, effectively muzzling watchdog groups during this critical reform period."

Myanmar was credited by members of the international community for a series of political reforms that began with general elections in 2010. Human rights and national security issues related to religious violence have been lingering concerns, however.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special envoy on Myanmar rights, said last week he was unable to visit parts of the country because his vehicle was overrun by protesters.

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