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Burma abolishes order banning public gatherings

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 29, 2013 at 7:15 a.m.

— Myanmar’s new reformist government has abolished a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people, state media reported Tuesday, ending a much-criticized order issued in 1988 on the day a military junta took power after crushing nationwide pro-democracy protests.

The state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper reported Tuesday that Order No 2/88 was abolished as it was not in line with a section of the constitution that says existing laws should remain valid as long as are not contrary to the constitution, which guarantees basic rights such as freedom of expression.

The order had been applied selectively as a tool to crush dissent against the military regimes that held sway until the elected government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011. His administration has instituted political liberalization, including the revocation of strict censorship.

The order had declared “Gathering or marching in processions and delivering speeches on the streets by a group of 5 or more people are banned.”

The junta used many catchall or vaguely defined orders and laws as a means of suppressing dissent, and courts generally handed out stiff sentences, sending thousands of political prisoners into jails around the country. Most have been freed under amnesties promulgated by Thein Sein.

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