Tight security for Myanmar’s first session of parliament


Naypyitaw (Myanmar) : Security was tight Sunday around Myanmar’s newly built parliament compound, which will be used for the first time this week by legislators elected in the country’s first polls in two decades last November.

Support TwoCircles

Barricades were in place on roads leading to the massive parliament compound in the suburb of Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s new capital since 2005, situated 350 km north of the old capital of 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 8.55 a.m. Monday.

The odd start time is attributed to Myanmar’s military supremo Senior General Than Shwe, who is known to be a believer in numerology.

But members of parliament were in the dark about what was on the agenda for the first session.

“We haven’t been told what meetings are on the agenda for tomorrow yet,” said Khin Maung Yi, a member of National Democratic Force (NDF), an opposition party.

The NDF, a breakaway faction from the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, won only 1.5 percent of the contested seats in the Nov 7 polls.

The pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won 77 percent of the seats in Myanmar’s three chambers of parliament — upper, lower and regional.

The polls were condemned by Western democracies for being neither free nor fair nor inclusive.

Myanmar’s parliament also includes military appointees accounting for 25 percent of the three chambers.

Only the upper and lower houses, along with 166 military appointees, will meet in Naypyitaw this week. The regional and state parliaments will meet separately in their own capitals.

Parliament’s first important task will be to nominate three presidential candidates to be voted on by an electoral college.

The president is expected to be selected before mid-February.

Than Shwe, who turns 78 Wednesday, is a likely candidate, although he may choose to push a protege into the presidency and control him from “behind the curtain”, government sources said.

Than Shwe has ruled Myanmar under a junta since 1992, but the country has been under military dictatorships since 1962.