Myanmar Mulls Emulating US Congress Administrative Structure

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Shwe Mann attends the opening session of the lower house of parliament in Naypyidaw, July 4, 2012.
Shwe Mann attends the opening session of the lower house of parliament in Naypyidaw, July 4, 2012.

Myanmar's parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann will meet U.S. lawmakers next week as part of a bid to study and emulate the administrative structure of the U.S Congress as his country evolves from decades of military rule to a democracy, according to sources close to him.

Shwe Mann, speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw—the lower house of Myanmar's parliament—arrives in Washington on Sunday for a nine-day visit during which he will hold talks with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, among other leading legislators.

"Our Speaker wants not only to build good ties between Myanmar and American lawmakers but also to study the administrative structure of the U.S. Congress," a source close to Shwe Mann told RFA's Burmese Service.

"He will visit and meet with the leaders of key agencies under the U.S. Congress to look into the rules and regulations governing the legislature with a view to adopting them in Burma," the source said.

Shwe Mann, who was previously the third highest-ranking member of the Burmese military junta, is scheduled to visit the Congressional Research Office, which works exclusively for Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation.

He will also visit the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan federal agency within the legislature that provides economic data to Congress, and the Institute for Representative Government (IRG), established by former lawmakers as an independent organization to provide high-level, professional exchange programs for parliamentarians from developing or newly established democracies.

Shwe Mann, who will be accompanied by Hla Myint Oo, the chairman of the Myanmar Parliament International Relations Committee, is scheduled to meet with the Burmese community in Washington and visit the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED)—a nonprofit foundation aimed at promoting democracy—International Republican Institute (IRI), and National Democratic Institute (NDI) before flying to New York to visit the United Nations.

He will also visit Silicon Valley in the southern region of Northern California's San Francisco Bay Area.

Myanmar parliament

Myanmar's national-level bicameral legislature, established under the country's 2008 military-written constitution, is made up of the 440-seat lower house, or House of Representatives, and the Amyotha Hluttaw—a 224-seat upper house.

Each of the fourteen major administrative regions and states in the country has its own regional assembly or state assembly.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been at the forefront of calls for reforms to the country's constitution, which reserves a quarter of seats in parliament for unelected members of the military—giving them enough seats to effectively bar constitutional change, which requires a three-quarters majority.

Former or serving military generals also dominate the nominating process for presidential candidates, who in Burma must be appointed by the consent of parliament.

Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Soe. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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Good to see Shwue Mann in civilian garb instead of a military uniform. Instead of adopting the US legislative structure, the main thing is support an amendment of the constitution to prevent the military or any other interest group from having a guaranteed block of seats in the legislature, as is presently the case. An independent judiciary, guarantees of key civil and human rights, and a commitment to the rule of law are also very important.

Jun 09, 2013 09:33 PM





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