US raises concern over Article 18

The United States has expressed concern about arrests and “excessive” prison terms for peaceful demonstrators under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Processions Act.

“Upholding an individual’s ability to exercise his or her basic rights of peaceful expression and assembly is central to any democracy, and fundamental to the ongoing reform process,” the US embassy said in a statement on July 15.

“Free exercise of these rights will be particularly important during the upcoming election season as a measure of the election’s transparency, inclusiveness and credibility, and we urge authorities to ensure those democratic rights are protected in the coming months and beyond,” the statement said.

Article 18 of the Act provides for a jail term of up to six months for those who demonstrate without obtaining prior permission from the police.

Figures released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners show that of 452 activists awaiting trial in jail, 199 were charged with violating Article 18, the Myanmar Times reported. Another 33 activists are serving prison terms for violating Article 18, it said.

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