This Week in Parliament (August 1-5)

By The Irrawaddy 6 August 2016

The Bill Committee put forward a bill in the Lower House to annul the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which has been described as a threat to Burmese citizens’ fundamental rights. The Lower House approved debate of the bill and invited lawmakers to discuss it at a later point in time.

In the Upper House, Dr. San Maung Maung, a lawmaker representing Pegu Division Constituency 1, highlighted the negative consequences of drinking liquor and asked if the government planned to take a tough stance on production and distribution of homebrew and bootleg liquor as well as increase taxes. The deputy home affairs minister responded that alcohol taxes have recently been increased and the ministry had no plan at the moment to increase them again. Meanwhile, the health and sports ministry is conducting public awareness campaigns about liquor in conjunction with alcohol addiction treatment programs, he said.

Tuesday August 2

In the Lower House, lawmaker Dr. Than Win of North Okkalapa Constituency urged the Union government to root out entrenched bribery and corruption in Burma. Parliament approved discussion of his proposal. The previous Union Parliament enacted an anti-graft law in August 2013, and formed an anti-corruption commission in March 2014, but there had been little success in eliminating corruption, according to lawmakers.

In the Upper House, lawmakers seconded a proposal by Sai Wan Hline Kham of Shan State Constituency 3 that urged the Union government to address rampant drug dealing and abuse across northern Shan State, conduct public awareness campaigns and establish rehabilitation centers. Lawmakers argued that drug problems affect all of Burma, not only Shan State. Parliament noted the discussion and approved the proposal.

Wednesday August 3

In the Lower House, lawmaker Khin Hnin Thit of Pantaung Constituency put forward a proposal urging the Union government to take action to reduce crime, describing crime as a hindrance to the rule of law. The lawmaker stated that murder and mugging rates in Rangoon increased between 2014 and 2015. The Lower House approved discussion of the proposal.

Lawmaker Myint Lwin from Pazundaung Constituency asked if the government would allow the public to attend court hearings without restriction and take action against those who restrict attendance. Soe Nyunt, a judge on the Supreme Court, said that except in cases involving rape and sexual assault, hearings were held in open courts and the public could attend. He promised to take action against those who restricted people from attending court hearings.

In the Upper House, lawmaker Kyaw Htwe of Rangoon Division Constituency 8 submitted a proposal asking the Union government to develop a comprehensive plan to address the annual flooding in the delta and coastal areas during rainy season and the drinking water scarcity across Burma in the summer. The Upper House approved discussion of the proposal.

Dubbed the rice bowl of Burma, the delta, which covers Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions and the northern part of Arakan State, suffers from rainy season floods, which lead to a decline in rice production, Kyaw Htwe said.

Thursday August 4

In the Lower House, lawmaker Dr. Saw Naing from South Okkalapa Constituency asked what measures were being taken to ensure public safety on the Rangoon-Naypyidaw-Mandalay Expressway. Construction Minister Win Khaing replied that his ministry had taken a series of measures including deploying road patrols and erecting warning signs and guard rails at 22 black spots along the highway. The Ministry of Construction is seeking international loans to upgrade the highway, he said.

In the Upper House, the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement submitted a senior citizen draft law for discussion and the Upper House Bill Committee submitted its report on the draft law.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kyaw Tint Swe put forward a Burma territorial waters draft law for discussion and the Upper House Bill Committee submitted its report on the draft law.

Friday August 5

In the Lower House, lawmakers debated a proposal from Zaw Min Thein of Laymyatnar Constituency, which urged the Union government to strengthen embankments along the Irrawaddy and Ngawun rivers in Irrawaddy Division. Parliament put the proposal on record.

In response to a lawmaker’s question about how the government would support war refugees on the border and if there was a plan to mediate between clashing parties, Deputy Border Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Than Htut replied that since fighting broke out in Kachin State in June 2011, a total of 94 relief camps had been providing shelter for almost 40,000 refugees. The National Reconciliation and Peace Center is also taking steps to hold peace talks with both signatories and non-signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, he said.

In the Upper House, Khin Aung Myint of Mandalay Division Constituency 8 submitted a proposal urging the Union government to design and implement a special plan to eliminate illiteracy among ethnic minorities, enable them to gain a university education and promote ethnic literature. Parliament approved discussion of the proposal.