This Week in Parliament (July 31 – August 4)

By The Irrawaddy 5 August 2017

Monday (July 31)

The Lower House approved a proposal by Dr. U Hla Moe of Aungmyaythazan Township to launch an education television channel. According to the education and information ministry, the channel will be aired by the state broadcaster Myanma Radio and Television starting in the next fiscal year.

The channel reportedly aims to facilitate learning in rural and remote areas, offer new teaching methods to educators, and keep the public informed about academic progress in the country.

U Kyaw Lwin Aung of Sidoktaya Township urged the government to issue a disaster alert through mobile SMS messages to help mitigate the impact of disasters. Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications U Myo Kyaw said that Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) sent its subscribers a download link to the ‘DAN Myanmar mobile application’ in December, which provides emergency telephone numbers, dos and don’ts in times of disaster, and weather news and disaster alerts in real time.

In addition, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement runs a Facebook page and a website which also provide real-time weather reports and disaster alerts.

In the Upper House, parliamentarians debated a bill proposing amendments to the 2012 Farmland Law.

Tuesday (August 1)

Ten MPs debated President U Htin Kyaw’s proposal to make the sale of diamonds, emeralds, and gold bars, which are listed as special commodities under the Special Commodities Tax Law, exempt from commercial tax. Seven lawmakers debated in favor of tax exemption, and three others endorsed exempting tax on basic commodities, rather than luxury products.

Wednesday (August 2)

The Lower House voted down the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP U Thein Tun’s proposal which urged the government to boost awareness of H1N1—also known as swine flu—across the country in order to reduce infection rates and deaths. Out of a total of 392 votes in Parliament, 146 MPs voted in support and 231 against the proposal, while four abstained, and 11 MPs did not join the ballot.

In response to the question by Tamu Township MP U Naing Naing Win, Deputy Commerce Minister U Aung Htoo said that his ministry for the time being had no plan to establish a Myanmar-India border trade zone in his township.

Daw Khin Hnin Thit of Padaung Township urged the government to equalize the required matriculation marks for both male and female students for admission to vocational institutes. Currently, women are required to earn higher scores to attend the same institutes, particularly in studying subjects like medicine. Deputy Minister for Education U Win Maw Tun said the required marks are the same for both male and female students for admission to universities of economics, education, technological and computer studies. However, the education ministry currently has no plan to change the male-female ratio for medical and pharmaceutical programs.

The Upper House voted down the scrapping of the Article 66(d) of 2013 Telecommunications Law, but approved proposed amendments, such as a provision allowing for bail.

MPs also debated the bill amending the law on narcotics, drugs and psychotropic substances. There were different views and the speaker asked the bill committee to review the amendments.

Thursday (August 3)

In the Lower House, Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung, in response to a question by Minhla Township MP Dr. Than Aung Soe, said that the government has for the time being no plan to increase the pension for retired military personnel and civil servants.

The Upper House approved a bill amending Myanmar’s Gemstone Law. The bill has yet to be discussed in the Lower House.

The new law will ban large-scale mining, and only allow medium- and small-scale ventures.

Friday (August 4)

In response to a question by Dr. Daw Pyone of Kachin State’s Indaw Township, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Aung Soe said that the government had adopted a road map to design a new comprehensive anti-drug policy. This, he said, would address the country’s drug problem at the national level. In addition, the home ministry will send a special drug squad to be stationed in Indaw Township which is situated on the smuggling route for drugs to jade mines in Kachin State, said the deputy minister.

The MPs discussed the regional development tasks of their respective constituencies in the Upper House.