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Asia-Pacific

Hundreds protest Malaysian street rally ban

media Members from Malaysia's NGO participate in a protest against the Peaceful … Reuters/Samsul Said

Demonstrations in Malaysia are to be banned after parliament enacted a law on street protests on Tuesday. The government-controlled parliament passed the bill into law just hours after about 500 lawyers, opposition lawmakers and activists marched in the capital Kuala Lumpur to parliament calling for its withdrawal.

 

The assembly law replaces legislation that required a police permit for public gatherings, but critics complain it contains a range of new restrictions including an outright ban on street marches.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had framed the law as part of a campaign to soften tough rules on security, free speech and assembly as he looks to increase support ahead of elections expected next year.

Najib has defended the legislation, saying it guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.

The law allows gatherings to be held in designated places, such as stadiums, without prior notice, while those in other areas would first require police approval.

The law was softened slightly in the wake of the outcry, shortening the amount of notice that assembly organisers must give police to within 10 days of the event, instead of the original 30 days.

But critics including the Bar Council and Amnesty International maintain the act would grant police too much power over the timing, duration, and location of gatherings.

 

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