Upper House Convenes, Confirms Ethnic Minority Speakers

By San Yamin Aung 3 February 2016

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s newly elected Parliament has officially appointed the speaker and deputy speaker of the Upper House, securing three-quarters of the powerful posts for ethnic minority lawmakers.

Ethnic Karen Mahn Win Khaing Than, of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), and Aye Tha Aung of the Arakan National Party (ANP), were sworn in during the first convening of the Upper House on Wednesday.

Win Myint, an ethnic Bamar NLD member, and T Khun Myat, a Kachin lawmaker representing the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), assumed Lower House speaker and deputy positions on Monday.

Lawmakers and observers said they were pleased the decision of the NLD, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, to bring diversity to the legislature for the first time in the country’s history; the military-backed USDP, which has just relinquished its majority, all four speaker positions were held by ethnic Bamar ruling party members.

Some stressed, however, that they hope to see more representation among the central government, as well.

“I welcome and am happy about the NLD appointments, because they gave the positions to ethnic minorities,” said Pe Than, also a member of the ANP, “but even though we have three ethnic speakers in the Parliament, we still don’t know how many will be appointed to the cabinet and regional governments.”

Suu Kyi has previously vowed to appoint ethnic minorities and members of other political parties to important roles to promote national reconciliation.

The NLD-dominated legislature convened for the first time this week after the party’s landslide election win in November. Both houses will reconvene on Thursday.