(From dpa)

A bill shielding former presidents of Myanmar from prosecution for any crimes committed during their time in office has provoked condemnation from some political and rights groups.

Thein Sein
Thein Sein

The bill, which says no legal action can be taken against a retired president for his or her activities in the line of duty, was submitted to parliament for approval in early December.

“The immunity provision should be stripped from the proposed law so that President Thein Sein and future Burmese presidents remain accountable for any crimes they commit,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Impunity for Myanmar’s longstanding military government is already enshrined in article 445 of the 2008 constitution, HRW said in a statement.

The bill “is a brazen attempt to shoehorn immunity from prosecution into the president’s retirement package,” Robertson said.

Myanmar is preparing for a political transition after the opposition National League for Democracy trounced the military-backed governing party in elections in November, leading to a likely change of president early next year.

The draft law, which also outlines support for retired presidents such as lifetime funding for a bodyguard, was published in state-run newspapers on December 21.

The Former President’s Security Bill has also been criticized by groups in Myanmar.

“The president is just a citizen like us. A president must be accountable for any wrongdoing he or she has done in the past,” said Khun Tun Oo, leader of ethnic political party, the Shan National League for Democracy.

Aung Thein, leader of the Myanmar Lawyer’s Network, said earlier this week that the immunity clause should be stripped from the text or made only to apply to certain decisions.

“The president’s actions must be for the public interest. If it is against the public benefit and done for his own benefit, he should not be immune from prosecution,” Aung Thein told the Irrawaddy newspaper.

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