Lawmakers Slam Hesitation on Six Party Talks

By Zarni Mann 28 November 2014

MANDALAY — One day after a presidential spokesman derided a proposed roundtable meeting of Burma’s top leaders as “impractical”, lawmakers have slammed President Thein Sein’s government for ignoring widespread support for constitutional amendments.

Speaking to Radio Free Asia on Thursday, Information Minister Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia that a proposed six-party constitutional summit was unworkable, two days after the summit was unanimously endorsed by parliament.

“This shows that they are still treating the opposition parties as the enemy,” said Thein Nyunt, a lawmaker from the New National Democratic Party. “It shows that they still cannot face those with different opinions on how to build the future of the country.”

“They should have understood the importance of the meeting. Since they have refused it, this means they have no sincerity while ruling the country,” he added.

The roundtable was set to include President Thein Sein, National League for Democracy chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi, speakers of both houses of parliament, military leader Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, and a representative of an ethnic minority party.

Politicians, activists, ethnic leaders and parliamentarians had welcomed the proposals and expressed new hope for the possibility of constitutional amendments.

“We welcome the proposal and we support it, for such a meeting is an important step for the country,” said Kyaw Min Yu, a student leader from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society. “But I wonder why they would say the proposal is impractical. Everyone knows such a meeting is vital. To refuse is to run away from reform.”

On Wednesday, ethnic parties endorsed Arakan National Party lawmaker Dr. Aye Maung to represent their interests at the talks. Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia on Thursday that only having one representative for ethnic party parliamentarians at the summit would fail to account for the broad diversity of opinions and priorities among the parties.

“The proposal from the Union Parliament is requested accordingly with the constitution,” said Aye Maung. “Saying it is impractical is too early, I have to say. As for the issue of ethnic representation, this is just the first step. We can expand it later.”

Aye Maung noted that this occasion was the second time the government had rejected a proposal for high-level meetings, having earlier rebuffed a dialogue between Thein Sein, Suu Kyi, Min Aung Hlaing and lower house speaker Shwe Mann.

“We have to question why they are not willing to do this meeting,” he said. “What are they afraid of? We want to know why don’t they believe in holding such a meeting for the sake of the country’s transition.”