Myanmar’s Military Names New Members of Parliament

myanmar-parliament-military-members-apr9-2015.jpg Military lawmakers attend a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, April 9, 2015.

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission has released a list of military officers named to serve in the country’s next parliament, which will convene next month following a landslide victory in national polls in November by the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The list, which was made public on Tuesday, includes 110 high-ranking officers who will be seated in the parliament’s Pyithu Hluttaw, or upper house, 56 named to serve in the Amyothar Hluttaw, or lower house, and 220 named to serve in the country’s regional assemblies.

Among those selected as MPs by Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing is Brig. Gen. Thein Naing, son-in-law of former junta chief Gen. Than Shwe, who will serve in the regional assembly for Yangon, the country’s commercial capital.

For the first time, two major generals have also been named to the list—the highest-ranking officers yet to serve in the country’s national legislature.

The NLD now holds a majority of seats in parliament and will select the country's next president.

Under the terms of a 2008 military-drafted constitution, though, military officers continue to hold 25 percent of the legislature’s seats through appointment, giving them veto power over all constitutional amendments.

NLD party leader Aung San Suu Kyi herself is barred from the post of president by a provision in the constitution that excludes from the presidency anyone married to a foreign-born spouse or whose children hold foreign passports. Her late husband was British, as are her sons.

The new parliament is scheduled to convene on Feb. 1, Myanmar’s Irrawaddy newspaper said in a Jan. 19 report.

'Opposition group'

Commenting on the number of senior-ranking officers now slated to serve as MPs, one observer commented that with the newly elected NLD now holding a majority in parliament, Myanmar’s military MPs will for the first time be functioning as an “opposition group.”

“They will be closely watching the ruling party and act as an opposition group for the next five years,” political analyst Kyaw Linn Oo told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

In selecting senior officers to serve in parliament, “the top military must have considered the need for its MPs to act in a unified and disciplined way in discussions and while passing various bills,” Kyaw Linn Oo said.

“Higher-ranking officers will be more responsive to the commands of the top echelon,” agreed Kyaw Zeya, an NLD MP-elect and retired lieutenant colonel in the country’s military, also speaking to RFA.

“In my view, a major would be more responsive than a captain, just as a brigadier would be more responsive than a major,” he said.

And with the NLD now holding more seats in parliament and forming the country’s next government, criticisms and discussions of the military’s role in national politics may be expected in coming sessions, Ye Tun, an elected lawmaker for Chaungzon Township in the Mon State Assembly, said.

“It could be that more knowledgeable and educated officers will be needed to rebuff them,” he said.

'Routine meeting'

Myanmar’s military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) meanwhile held the first meeting of its central executive committee (CEC) since its defeat in the polls last year, gathering on Tuesday in the capital Naypyidaw.

“It was just a routine meeting of the top CEC members,” committee member U Tint Zaw told RFA, dismissing rumors circulating in Myanmar that parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann and other top officials had been ousted from the party.

“As a political party, we always have reviews and discussions of the party’s performance in recent elections.”

“We also discussed organizational and recruiting matters,” he said.

Reported by Way Mar Tun and Zin Mar Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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