Outgoing Parliament Approves Presidential Protection, Immunity Bill

By San Yamin Aung 28 January 2016

RANGOON — On the penultimate sitting day of the outgoing Parliament, lawmakers voted to approve the Presidential Security Bill that guarantees lifetime personal security and legal immunity for former heads of state.

In a Union Parliament session on Thursday, lawmakers hashed out disagreements between the Lower and Upper houses before voting to pass the controversial bill that was first introduced in mid-December.

The bill had raised eyebrows as it appeared to have been expedited for the benefit of outgoing President Thein Sein whose term will expire in March.

The bloc of military MPs reportedly objected to a revision which stipulated that the president’s security would be appointed by the Home Ministry, not by either the Home Ministry or Defense Ministry as was stated in the original draft.

Lower House lawmaker Pe Than of the Arakan National Party, who was reelected in November, told The Irrawaddy that with a majority of lawmakers in agreement, that revision was approved.

The original draft stipulated that former presidents be “immune from any prosecution for his actions during his term.” The proviso “in accordance with the law” was subsequently added, an addition that was objected to by only three MPs, including Pe Than.

“Who will decide whether the president’s actions are in accordance with the law and how? It is unclear…” Pe Than said in Parliament on Thursday.

New parliamentarians, the majority of whom will represent the National League for Democracy, will take up their seats on Feb. 1.