Myanmar opens new parliament session after 50-year military rule

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – The first freely elected parliament in Myanmar for 50 years has held its opening session, the BBC reported on Monday.

Hundreds of new MPs, mostly from the National League for Democracy (NLD) but also some smaller parties, have been sworn in. The NLD – led by Aung San Suu Kyi – won 80 per cent of contested seats in November’s historic election. But a quarter of all seats are reserved for the military, which also retains control of key ministries.

One of the new parliament’s first jobs will be to choose a new president when outgoing leader Thein Sein steps down at the end of March. Suu Kyi – who spent 15 years under house arrest under the former military government – cannot take the top job.

A clause in the constitution which was widely seen as specifically targeting her says anyone whose children are foreign cannot be president. Her sons are British not Burmese.

She has been very clear – however – that she intends to run Myanmar anyway, saying she would be “above the president”. Suu Kyi – who has not named a possible candidate – did not speak to reporters as she entered the building.

But NLD MP Nyein Thit told AFP: “We will work to get human rights and democracy as well as peace.” Another NLD MP – Khin Maung Myint – told Associated Press: “I never imagined that our party would be able to form the government. Even the public didn’t think we could have an NLD government. But now it is like a shock to us and to the world too.”

Lama Naw Aung – an MP for the minority Kachin State Democracy Party – said a seat in parliament was “a good opportunity for us to speak out for the ethnic people and demand indigenous rights”.

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