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Malaysia passes law to regulate public assembly despite protest

(Xinhua)

08:32, November 30, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia's parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that regulates public assembly despite protest from opposition lawmakers and lawyers group.

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 was passed unanimously as opposition lawmakers walked out of the lower house during the debate, accusing the ruling coalition of rushing the bill through.

Prime Minister Najib Razak tabled the bill last week in a bid to ease public assembly rules and allow gatherings to be held without police permit.

But the Malaysian Bar Council and several other rights groups criticized it, saying it bans street demonstrations and requires assemblies, meetings and processions to be held only on designated compounds.

The new bill also bans assemblies within 50 meters from petrol stations, hospitals, fire stations, airports, railways, bridges, public transport terminals, ports, schools and places of worship.

It also requires assembly organizers to notify police 10 days before the event so that they could decide whether the venue and date are permissible.

The vote came after at least 300 Bar Council members and their supporters marched to the parliament earlier on the day and submitted a protest note to Liew Vui Keong, deputy minister in charge of legislation affairs in the Prime Minister's Department.

The opposition said earlier that the bill was more draconian than a similar law passed earlier this week in Myanmar. The bill allows protesters to attend the rallies, provided that they notify the police five days in advance.

But the prime minister responded that the bill was drafted in accordance with international norms and is based on 12 similar acts practiced by other countries.

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