Myanmar junta-run parliament opens new session
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Myanmar's new parliament opened on Monday as lawmakers assembled for the country's first legislative session since elections were held in November. The opening in the capital, Naypyitaw, was scheduled for 8:55am local time - a time chosen for its auspiciousness. No foreign journalists were allowed to attend.
The opening of the parliament, along with 14 regional assemblies, moves the country towards the final stage of the ruling military junta's roadmap to what it calls a "disciplined democracy", conceived in 2003.
A quarter of the seats in parliament were reserved for the military, even before the vote, and the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party claimed an overwhelming victory, giving it 388 of the 493 elected seats.
Mark Farmaner, Burma Campaign UK
“This parliament is not a parliament as we would know it,” Mark Farmaner, director of the rights group Burma Campaign UK, told RFI.
“It does not have any power to have any power to hold the government to account, and it does not have any power to improve the human rights situation in the country unless the military to agree to it.”
The opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) has a total of 12 seats in the legislature's two chambers. It split from opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi's NLD party, which was disbanded after boycotting the vote, in order to run candidates. The Democratic Party (Myanmar) has no parliamentary seats.
The opening of the session was shrouded in secrecy, and lawmakers themselves
were unaware of their roles in the parliament.
Farmaner says the elections were just a “diversion” to convince the international community that here has been change.
“Some of these academics who are arguing that this could be a step forward… they’re not talking about human rights, and that’s a fundamental concern for the people,” he said
“I think some of the academics who are commenting on this… they are looking at 20-, 30-, 40-year scenarios for change. That is not something acceptable for the people.”
The question of who will be the country's next president has yet to be openly discussed, although Thura Shwe Mann, the former number three of the army, and prime minister Thein Sein have recently been linked with the top spot.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from seven consecutive years under house arrest in November last year, was less optimistic in a Financial Times interview published this weekend, downplaying the impact of political changes.
"I don't think the elections mean there is going to be any kind of real change in the political process," she said. "I was released because my term was up. There is nothing strange about it."
“I think that within a year or two we’ll see that nothing has really changed in the country,“ said Farmaner. “Academics who said that this is a step in the right direction will have egg on their faces, but unfortunately the people of Burma will still be suffering as the UN dithers.”
He says the United Nations should work harder to foster dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.
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