Parliament Mulls Proposed Military Ministerial Expansion

By Nyein Nyein 27 January 2016

Burma’s outgoing President Thein Sein on Tuesday proposed bringing immigration under the authority of the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry, in an eleventh-hour attempt to extend the reach of the armed forces before transferring power to the newly elected opposition party.

The Union Parliament will discuss the proposal on Wednesday, but is unlikely to decide on the measure before the assembly concludes on Jan. 29, lawmakers said. A new legislature led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party will convene on Feb. 1.

The proposal by Thein Sein, himself a former general, was viewed as an attempt to expand the military’s power before the political handover. The country’s armed forces currently control three key ministries: Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs.

Thein Sein’s proposal recommended dissolving the Ministry of Immigration and Population to reduce costs and streamline security and naturalization processes, a lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

Immigration and border security have become hotly contested issues in recent years, as Burma has grappled with citizenship claims by Rohingya Muslims viewed as immigrants from Bangladesh.

Most members of the stateless minority say they have lived in Burma for generations, though they have been stripped of documentation, ostracized by their neighbors and subjected to discrimination.

Ye Tun, an ethnic Shan lawmaker of the Shan Nationalities Development Party (SNLD), said the assembly is prepared to hear the bill committee’s report on the proposal but that “it is too soon to rush into it.”

Suu Kyi has promised a “lean and efficient” government that would reassess the roles of Burma’s 36 ministries, vowing to eliminate redundancies and reduce unnecessary spending.