Upper House Approves Controversial Presidential Security Bill

By The Irrawaddy 15 January 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s Upper House of Parliament approved the Presidential Security Bill on Thursday, a controversial proposal that would offer immunity to former heads of state.

The bill, which was provisionally approved by the Lower House in late December, has been sent back for re-approval with minor revisions.

The Presidential Security Bill drew sharp criticism when it was introduced in mid-December, as it appeared to have been expedited for the benefit of outgoing President Thein Sein. The proposed legislation would ensure lifetime personal security and legal exemption for former presidents.

The original draft stipulated that former presidents be “immune from any prosecution for his actions during his term.”  Only one member of the Lower House resisted the clause, and it was later amended to add the proviso, “in accordance with the law.” The Upper House voted to strike the new language.

The initial draft also provided for a post-presidential bodyguard to be selected and paid for by either the Home Affairs Ministry or the defense Ministry. The Upper House on Thursday reversed an amendment that would limit the power of appointment to Home Affairs.

Upon further review, the Union Parliament is expected to vote on the latest amendments in the next week, before the current session comes to a close and a new legislature dominated by the National League for Democracy convenes.