Western Diplomats Hail Sitting of ‘Historic’ New Parliament

By The Irrawaddy 2 February 2016

RANGOON — As Burma’s new Parliament was seated for the first time on Monday, foreign diplomats congratulated the country on its “historic day,” with some ambassadors attending proceedings at the sprawling legislative complex in Naypyidaw as observers.

The 2016-2021 Parliament is packed with new lawmakers from the National League of Democracy (NLD), which won nearly 80 percent of seats in a November general election after more than two decades persecuted by the former military junta.

A total of 429 parliamentarians were present for the first day of the Lower House parliamentary session on Monday, with four lawmakers on leave.

British Ambassador to Burma Andrew Patrick expressed optimism as the fresh batch of lawmakers convened in the capital Naypyidaw. A statement from the British Embassy in Rangoon released on Monday quoted him as saying, “It’s over 50 years since the last properly elected Parliament sat in Burma. So this was an important day for democracy, and a great credit to this country.”

“There are challenges ahead, and of course the military still appoints 25 percent of the seats,” he continued in the statement.

The US Embassy saluted “the process of democracy that led to this historic day.”

“We congratulate the newly elected parliamentarians on their first day in office, and wish them well as they take on the difficult but urgent task of advancing peace, prosperity, justice, and reform in this country,” a statement from the American mission in Rangoon read.

In a post to its Facebook page, the Canadian Embassy said it would “look forward to working with the newly formed government to help contribute to Burma’s goal of a ‘peaceful, democratic, federal union.’”

Ambassador Roland Kobia of the European Union Delegation was on hand for Parliament’s first day and said his visit was “to witness this new step towards democracy.”

Parliament’s Lower House is scheduled to reconvene on Thursday and the legislature’s upper chamber will sit for the first time on Wednesday.