Burma Democratic Concern has the firm determination to carry on doing until the democracy restore in Burma.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Govt relaxes NGO registration process

THE government plans to amend a law concerning the registration of local and international non-government organisations, a presidential adviser revealed last week.

“The current law for [registration of] NGOs will be amended following a proposal from a member of parliament,” adviser Dr Nay Zin Latt said last week. “The government wants to increase cooperation with NGOs … [and] intends to loosen restrictions gradually.”

The amendments come after the government cut the waiting time for registration and also extended the length of validity for registration.

The change in policy came about in 2011 after the handover to President U Thein Sein’s government and by the end of the year 280 domestic groups had registered, according to Ministry of Home Affairs statistics. However, that still represents just a small percentage of the total number of non-government groups, which is estimated at about 20,000.

“We had to wait for two years for our application to register to be approved,” said U Nay Myo from Ratana Metta Organisation, which focuses on health, child protection and livelihoods and was officially registered in March 2011. “And we still had to promise to do only social affairs.”

Among the more high-profile organisations to be able to register is the Free Funeral Service Society, led by actor Kyaw Thu. The group, which formed in 2000, had its registration revoked in 2008 after a dispute with the government but it was reinstated last month with a validity period of five years, Kyaw Thu told The Myanmar Times.

However, he said the K500,000 (about US$600) registration fee was “unfair”.

“For small organisations, how they can afford this amount? Social welfare work is not a business. Instead of having to pay this fee it would be more beneficial to use this amount to improve people’s health and education,” he added.

Despite the relaxation of the registration process, many local organisations, particularly smaller informal groups, are still not interested in applying to register, said Dr Sid Naing, country director for Marie Stopes International.

“According to the Law of Founding an Organisation, all organisations must register but the law did not come into effect until 2006,” he said. “The former government only gave a registration number to the organisations that it trusted.

“After Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the number of local NGOs rose dramatically. While some of these organisations are officially registered with the government, many are not.”

However, those that operate without official registration can face difficulties, particularly from local officials.

“We had some problem when we went in the wards. The authorities asked our team, do we have an official registration number? If we haven’t, they said only to come back and do our welfare work when we have one,” said U Kyaw Thain Tun, head of Ratna Mahal, a Yangon-based education organisation that formed in 2009.

“We applied to register officially in August 2011 and I hope to get a registration number when I go to the Home Affairs Ministry office in Nay Pyi Taw next month.”

U Myo Yan Naung Thein, director of the Bayda Institute, a political education training centre based in Yangon, said the restrictions on political activities in the current law should be removed.

“It is not fair that NGOs are unable to join political movements. This meant that during the Myitsone Dam affair some environmental NGOs did not participate,” he said. “If NGOs are able to operate freely it will improve the democratic reforms in Myanmar.

“I want to apply to register our organisation because I want to work according to the law but we cannot do so under these restrictions … I would like to suggest to the government that the 1988 registration law is too restrictive and the government should create a new law that is very free and fair.”

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