Fortify Rights: Unnecessary House Inspections Give Govt Too Much Power – Law Must Stop

Laws which allow inspections of private properties without warrants and require the registration and government approval of household guests are draconian and open to abuse by the authorities, a report by Fortify Rights said today.

In the past two weeks, Myanmar authorities have reportedly searched private residences under the pretence of checking for unregistered overnight guests in order to detain activists involved in recent student-led protests,” Fortify Rights said in a statement to the press.

The Ward or Village Tract Administration Law, introduced in 2012, requires residents to attain government permission whenever visitors spend at least one night in their home. The law also forces the host to report personal information about their visitors.

Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights said its report, Midnight Intrusions, points that “the intrusions are unnecessary and diverse communities throughout the country have dealt with them for too long.”

Mr Smith said that the authorities could use these intrusive laws to target activists and government opposition activists.

“As long as this law remains on the books, authorities are free to use household inspections to target dissenters and oppress the least advantaged.”

The South East Asia based human rights organisation accused government authorities of repeatedly abusing the law to intimidate political opponents.“Officials selectively enforce the guest registration requirement and use household inspections to monitor, harass, and interfere with the activities of civil society organizations and political activists, among others,” the report noted, which interviewed 90 citizens from across the country.

Residents without full legal status faced risks of prosecution because the law made it difficult for them to houseguests. FR said that homeowners lacking documentation had to register themselves as guests in their own homes in some cases.

One woman, quoted in the report, said she had to register with authorities every five days, each time paying fees, simply because she lacked proper documentation.

The law forbids the collection of fees for registering guests, but FR said this provision was routinely ignored and that the law was used by corrupt officials wanting to get bribes out of the community. FR said the bribes could be as much as 1,500 Kyatt (US$1.50) – a significant sum where the daily standard wage is US$3.

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