Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday urged [press release] the government of Myanmar [JURIST news archive] to significantly revise or discard their draft association law. The draft law, if enacted, would require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain official registration to operate; would provide broad and difficult to interpret regulatory authority for NGOs; and could subject groups to arbitrary decisions without opportunity for appeal. Members of groups that fail to register could face criminal charges. The draft law also requires NGOs to re-register every five years. HRW stated:
The draft law should be revised to comply with international standards. It should make registration voluntary, and eliminate criminal and other penalties for organizations that do not register. Vague and unspecified provisions should be clarified so that the government cannot use the law to target critics by denying them registration. While governments have a legitimate regulatory interest in providing benefits to civil society organizations that register as legal entities and preventing criminal activity, such regulations should not provide a cover to undermine rights to freedom of association, expression, and assembly.The draft law also places restrains on international organizations operating within Myanmar.
Concern over Myanmar's sectarian violence and human rights record has continued recently. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar [official website], Tomas Ojea Quintana, last week applauded [JURIST report] recent government efforts to encourage a culture of respect between clashing political and religious sects but recognized the need for increased government action on a wide array of issues. Last month Quintana praised the release of 73 prisoners of conscience [JURIST report] when the president granted immunity to all those held. This came as a response to a demand from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] that the government of Myanmar do more to combat religious and ethnic discrimination [JURIST report] against minorities or risk undermining the reform movement in the country. In May and April Quintana worked closely [JURIST reports] with Myanmar officials to address concerns about the widespread persecution of Muslims and religion-based mob violence.