Karela Fry

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The parliament in Myanmar

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Senior General Than Shwe of Myanmar

Senior General Than Shwe of Myanmar

A strategically important country for both China and India, Burma remains an unstable military dictatorship, riven by ethnic strife. The Burmese gas fields are being developed with pipelines which may eventually lead to both China and India. Unfortunately there is little news about it in the Indian media. Here is a recent piece from the Hindu:

Myanmar’s recently elected parliament has convened at Naypyidaw, but it would be unwise to expect first-hand accounts of the session in the media. In the “discipline-flourishing democracy” of the junta, journalists were not allowed to cover the opening day’s proceedings. There can be no visitors to this parliament, and anyone other than a legislator caught entering the building faces a one-year prison term and fine. The shadow of the junta is everywhere. The new bicameral parliament has 664 members, of which nearly 500 belong to the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a proxy for the military regime that goes by the name of State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Separately, 25 per cent of the seats in both houses go to serving military officers. Together, the junta controls, more or less, 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition, represented by the National Democratic Force, a splinter group of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, has a mere 16 seats. (The NLD boycotted the elections.) Parties representing Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities form another small clutch of opposition voices.

The legislators are to elect a President who will head the new government that will replace the SPDC. It is certain that he will be a trusted representative of the junta. Will Senior General Than Shwe put up his own name or is it going to be another general slightly lower in the hierarchy?

BBC reported:

Burma’s long-standing leader Than Shwe is not on a list of presidential nominees, suggesting he will no longer be the country’s official ruler.

Parliament has put forward five names, reports say, from which a president and two vice-presidents will be selected.

The most prominent figure listed is Thein Sein, the prime minister in the outgoing military government, and a trusted ally of Than Shwe.

Analysts believe Than Shwe will remain a dominant force in Burma.

The upper and lower houses of parliament each put forward two names as candidates for the posts of president and vice-president.

These comprised two from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won a big majority in the election, and two from parties representing Burma’s ethnic minorities.

The lower house named Thein Sein, leader of the USDP and outgoing prime minister, and ethnic Karen politician Saw Thein Aung.

Sai Mauk Kham, an ethnic Shan from the USDP, and Aye Maung from the Rakhine National Democratic party – which is not a military proxy party – were chosen by the upper house.

The names of the first four candidates were announced on state television, but not the fifth.

At the first sitting Thura Shwe Mann – the junta’s number three leader who stood down from the military to run in the polls as a civilian – was appointed lower house Speaker.

The former Culture Minister Khin Aung Myint was named as Speaker of the Upper House.

Thein Sein, Myanmar’s new president

Thein Sein, Myanmar’s new president

That is an interesting balancing act with ethnic Shan and Karen candidates. NYT continued the story:

A former prime minister and longtime adjutant to Myanmar’s military dictator was elected president on Friday by the country’s newly inaugurated Parliament, a move that cements the military’s control of a new political system.

Thein Sein, a career army bureaucrat who as prime minister was the public face of the military government, won more than 60 percent of the vote in the two-chamber Parliament, news agencies reported from Myanmar.

[O]f the top five political figures under the new system — the president, two vice presidents and the speakers of the lower and upper houses of Parliament — four are former senior military officers.

Mr. Thein Sein is regarded as a low-key administrator who is perhaps best known within the military for his fealty to Than Shwe, the country’s aging senior general, who now appears to be taking a behind-the-scenes advisory role similar to Deng Xiaoping’s in China during that country’s transition to a market economy.

Among other appointments this week, Thura Shwe Mann, a senior member of the junta, was elected speaker of the lower house of Parliament, and Khin Aung Myint, a retired general, ran unopposed and became speaker of the upper house.

The two vice presidents are Tin Aung Myint Oo, a former member of the junta, and Sai Mauk Kham, a doctor from the ethnic Shan minority.


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