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Myanmar ends ban on public gatherings after 25 years

Myanmar's state-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin reported Tuesday that President Thein Sein [BBC profile] abolished Order No. 2/88, which banned gathering and delivering speeches in public by a group of five or more people. The order, which was established in 1988 when the the military government came into power, has been criticized [BBC report] by the international community as a tool to suppress dissent. Though enforcement of the order has been softened over the past several years, the government decided to completely abolish under Article 447 of the Myanmar Constitution [text, PDF], which provides that rules and regulations that predate the 2008 constitution "shall remain in operation in so far as they are not contrary to this Constitution until and unless they are repealed or amended by the Union Government." The government found the order incompatible with the constitutional protection of freedom of expression and passed Order No. 3/2013 reversing the ban.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest in a series of reform efforts under Sein. Earlier this month Myanmar repealed [JURIST report] a 1996 law enacted under which dissidents could be sentenced for up to 20 years for delivering speeches that threatened peace and stability. In December Myanmar announced [BBC report] that it would permit privately owned newspapers for the first time in 50 years beginning in April. In conjunction with a visit by US President Barack Obama [JURIST news archive] in November Myanmar announced that it would be releasing a number of political prisoners [JURIST report]. In September Myanmar announcedamnesty for 514 prisoners [JURIST report], identified by activists to include several political detainees and foreigners.

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