Government’s Report to Parliament Lacked Substance, Lawmakers Say

By Nyein Nyein 19 September 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—The government failed to show how it plans to solve the country’s current political and economic problems during its presentation to the Union Parliament on Wednesday, observers and lawmakers said.

U Kyaw Tint Swe, the minister for the State Counselor’s Office, on Wednesday read a written report on the government’s efforts to the Union Parliament. The report described its steps to tackle a range of issues including the peace process, building a democratic federal state, rule of law and development.

The government’s report prioritized the peace process, national reconciliation, Rakhine state affairs and charter amendment, but was short on detail. It also emphasized its efforts and achievements in the fields of social development, social welfare, access to electricity and road infrastructure, urban planning, job creation, improving the environment for foreign investment, fighting corruption, tackling drug-related issues and solving traffic problems in the Yangon commercial region.

In the two-and-a-half years since the National League for Democracy-led government took office, party leader and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has come in for criticism at home and abroad. Rising commodity prices, a rapid weakening of the kyat, problems ensuring rule of law and stability, and a lack of progress in the peace process with the armed ethnic minorities are among its top challenges. Internationally, the government faces harsh criticism from Western countries for its failure to condemn numerous alleged human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims by the Tatmadaw.

“We had expected the government would lay out its plans for solving the current economic challenges—high prices and unstable market conditions—and the political situation, including the peace process and the international pressure over Rakhine State. However, they merely mentioned these issues,” said U Pe Than, a Lower House lawmaker from Myebon constituency in Rakhine State.

He added that U Kyaw Tint Swe dwelt on the perceived progress made by the Education, Health, Construction and Transport, Electricity, Energy and other ministries.

“Therefore, many of us lawmakers believe the NLD government’s presentation deviated from its announcement that it would share [details of how it is] addressing the current situation,” U Pe Than said.

The minister said that when the 2008 Constitution “is negotiated and amended step by step as the government expects, it will guarantee the country’s transition to democracy.” But he did not offer any details on the government’s negotiations to amend the charter. The government reiterated “the key role of the Tatmadaw—Myanmar’s military—in the current peace process,” which is one of the government’s priorities. U Kyaw Tint Swe said there were still many challenges to overcome to achieve a strong and harmonious peace process.

“The government should have said how it is negotiating charter amendment and how it plans to improve civilian-military relations, and whether it holds regular negotiations or not,” said Dr. Yan Myo Thein, a Yangon-based political analyst.

He said the government’s report to the public via the Parliament was “very vague”. He said he was expecting to hear how the government “tackled and how they would respond strategically to the current crisis, economically and politically, as well as to the international pressure over Rakhine State affairs.”

Regarding the Rakhine State conflict, U Kyaw Tint Swe said it is one of the challenges the government had to solve while it focuses on creating stability, peace and a democratic federal union.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya from northern Rakhine State fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a military crackdown in the wake of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s attacks on government security forces in August 2017. It was the second series of coordinated attacks by ARSA following an earlier wave in October 2016.

U Kyaw Tint Swe admitted that the government faced heavy criticism from the international community as a consequence of the mass exodus of people fleeing into Bangladesh. He also discussed the government’s efforts to repatriate those displaced and its preparations to rehabilitate them as agreed under a bilateral agreement signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh on Nov. 23, 2017.

The government also cited the Independent Commission of Enquiry, formed by the government but led by two foreigners, to investigate the alleged human rights violations following the violent attacks and the military’s counter-insurgency operations.

“We, our country, have sovereignty and we can solve our own domestic problems, and we are willing and able to do so,” said U Kyaw Tint Swe. However, he added that the country would abide by international laws and agreements to preserve good international relations.