Knowledge Highlights 7 December 2022
On 28 October 2022, the Myanmar State Administration Council enacted the Registration of Associations Law (“Law”), which repeals and replaces the Association Registration Law 2014 (“2014 Law”). The Law regulates the registration of local non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) and international non-governmental organisations (“INGOs”).
This Article summarises some key highlights of the Law.
INGO definition amended
The Law amends the definition of an INGO, with the new definition requiring that 40% of an INGO’s executive membership be made up of Myanmar citizens. The definition in the 2014 Law did not specify any requirements regarding the makeup of an INGO’s membership.
Registration requirements expanded
The Law expands the requirements an INGO must meet in order to operate in Myanmar. In addition to the requirements set out in the 2014 Law, an INGO must now also:
- Obtain the approval of the relevant authorities regarding its intended programmes and objectives
- Obtain recommendations from the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations and the Ministry of Immigration and Manpower
- Submit a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting its opinion
- Obtain approval from the local administrative authorities in the area where the INGO intends to carry out activities
Organisations formed without registration prior to the Law coming into force must apply for a registration certificate within 60 days of the date the Law was enacted. Organisations registered and established under the 2014 Law are able to operate until the expiration of their registration certificate provided that they are in compliance with the provisions under the Law. The Law provides for a penalty of a maximum fine of MMK 1,000,000 or three years’ imprisonment for operating without a valid certificate.
A temporary certificate will be issued within 21 days of the application. The certificate will be confirmed and issued within 30 days from the date of approval by the relevant authorities. Once approval is obtained, the NGO or INGO must pay the applicable registration fee to the relevant Myanma Economic Bank within the period specified by the registration board and obtain the registration certificate by showing proof of payment. The fees range from MMK 30,000 to MMK 300,000 for NGOs and is set at MMK 500,000 for INGOs. It should be noted that the temporary registration certificate must be returned when collecting the registration certificate as failure to do so will cause the issued registration certificate to be revoked.
A registration certificate is valid for five years from the date of the approval and can be renewed. A renewal application must be submitted 90 days before the certificate expires.
The following organisations are not required to register under the Law:
- Organisations that only pursue religious, political, and economic activities
- Political parties
- Organisations formed under existing laws
- Committees or organisations formed by the Government
A registered NGO and INGO is required to submit an audited annual report as set out below.
Union Registration Board, Regional or State Registration Board, Union Territory Registration Board
· Compile annual report in accordance with financial regulations
· Annual report to be audited by a fully qualified certified public accountant registered with the Myanmar Accountancy Council
· Submit audited report together with financial statements to relevant registration board within 60 days after the end of each calendar year
· Submit copy of audited report to relevant authorities that approved registration
Self-administered Division or Zone Registration Board, District Registration Board, Township Registration Board
· As above, with the additional stipulation that the annual report is to be audited by an accountant or audit team consisting of three executive members
Organisations under the Law are required to seek the approval of the relevant registration body for the following actions:
- Winding up
- Change of name, address of the organisation
- Change of executive members
- Opening of a branch
- Change of original objectives, plan
In addition to the penalties that may be imposed for operating without a registration certificate, the relevant authorities may issue warnings, impose restrictions, suspend, or cancel the certificate where an NGO or INGO is determined to not have complied with the Law. A right of appeal against these actions is afforded to the affected organisation and must be filed within 60 days of the order being imposed.
It is also provided that no organisation with a registration certificate should directly or indirectly contact or support organisations or individuals that have taken up arms against the State, been designated by the State as committing acts of terrorism or having been deemed unlawful associations and their members. The penalty for contravention of these particular provisions of the Law is imprisonment for up to five years or a fine not exceeding MMK 5,000,000 or both.