Myanmar scraps ‘midnight inspections’ law

Myanmar scraps ‘midnight inspections’ law

Myanmar is scrapping part of a controversial law that forced people to report overnight guests and was used by the authorities to barge into houses late at night, often targeting activists.

The country’s Parliament, now filled with former political prisoners after landmark polls in November, voted to remove the controversial clause this week despite opposition from the military, which still controls a quarter of seats.

Under the former junta, it became known as the “midnight inspections” law because police would often turn up at people’s houses unannounced, demanding to know who was staying there.

Activists said officials were still using the legislation to harass people and extort money even after the military handed power to a semi-civilian government in 2011.

More than 50 civil society groups last month called for an end to the law, which they described as an “oppressive tool seriously threatening the human security and dignity of the people”.

Win Htein, an aide to veteran activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now leading the country’s civilian administration, said lawmakers had kept some caveats in the Bill for security reasons.

“We scrapped that clause, but we inserted some conditions,” said the ex-political prisoner, who spent years behind bars under the former junta.

Police are no longer authorised to intrude late at night, but can ask about the presence of strangers in a polite, professional way, he said. The new form of the Bill also requires guests staying in a village or ward to register with the authorities after one month.

Mr Win Htein said the army had opposed scrapping the clause because they were “worried it would reduce their authority”.

Myanmar’s military ruled the country for decades before stepping down in 2011, paving the way for the democratic transition that lifted Ms Suu Kyi into power earlier this year.

However, soldiers still run several powerful government ministries and control large parts of the economy. AFP

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