Security measures were tightened Sunday around Burma’s newly-built grandiose parliamentary buildings, which will be used for the first time this week by lawmakers elected in the country’s first polls in two decades in November.
Barbwire barricades were in place on the way to the huge parliament complex in Naypyitaw, Burma’s new capital since 2005, situated 350 kilometres north of the old capital Rangoon or Yangon.
Plain-clothed security personnel were posted at municipal guest houses where hundreds of legislators were lodged ahead of the first session of the upper and lower houses of parliament starting at 8.55am on Monday.
As the trustworthiness of the junta’s 2008 constitution and 2010 polls was dismissed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party, the up-to-date parliamentary meetings seem unlikely to change the political environment of the country.
According to Mizzima News Agency, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Myanmar (FCCM) held a meeting in Rangoon on January 18 and decided to submit an application to the Ministry of Information for right of entry into parliamentary sessions to cover the events.
“We applied via the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division. But, we haven’t got any reply. We are still waiting,” a Rangoon-based correspondent from a foreign news agency told the Mizzima News.
However, on January 17, during an opening ceremony for a library in one Township in Rangoon, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan told local correspondents from a foreign news agency that tje Information Ministry has been planning to invite journalists from foreign news agencies to cover parliamentary sessions. However, it seems this is unlikely to happen.
The parliamentary buildings are new; as are the members of parliament. Incoming lawmakers have to obey strict instructions provided in 17 booklets covering everything from legislation and how to vote to dress code. All lawmakers are to wear traditional outfits, with ethnic representatives putting on the costume of their respective ethnic groups.
Although there are 388 military-appointed members of parliament for three chambers, only the upper and lower houses, with 166 military appointees, will assemble in Naypyitaw on Monday. The regional and state parliaments will convene separately in their own regional capitals.
Parliament’s primary mission will be to nominate three presidential candidates to be chosen by a junta-backed electoral college, as hinted by the observers. No other bills will be allowed putting forward for discussion. No media personnel were invited to cover the opening ceremony of the parliament as yet. It will be a premeditated performance or fake assembly.
A report – Burma’s 2010 Elections: a comprehensive report – released by Burma Fund UN Office today for the opening of Burma’s first Parliament, documents the widespread political repression and human rights abuses marring the electoral process. It found that none of the fundamental requirements for free and fair elections exist in Burma, and instead the human rights crisis deepened, as a consequence of the elections.
The Burma Fund UN Office Director, Dr Thaung Htun evaluated the recent November polls as a political deception mixed with human rights abuses.
“The parliament sitting today, is little more than a calculated ruse. The actors are the same; it is only the stage that has been newly decorated. However, we must not lose hope, the election is far from an end in itself and cannot divert the aspirations of the people for a genuine democratic transition. The agents of change in Burma are the people and their true representatives, who were cruelly excluded from the election process.”
“Even though a lot of challenges lie ahead on the path to freedom, the genuine pro-democracy and ethnic leaders and activists will continue to stand with the people, fearlessly facing down the military regime, and eventually, the will of the people will prevail in shaping the future of Burma.”