Burma’s opposition lawmakers are due to take their seats in the nation’s fledgling parliament today, in a session likely to be dominated by recent deadly communal unrest.
After years muffled by the repressive former junta, National League for Democracy (NLD) members will attend the new parliament session, with violence in western Arakan state, economic reform and foreign investment leading the agenda.
Parliament, still led by the military and its political allies, will discuss the deadly communal violence in June between communal Arakanese and Rohingya which left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.
A state of emergency is still in place after the outbreak of violence, which prompted reformist President Thein Sein to warn it could damage the country’s emergence from decades of military rule.
In a statement on the presidential website late yesterday, Thein Sein stressed resolution to communal conflicts was the “foundation of the nation building process”.
Also up for discussion will be the crafting of a new foreign investment law to govern the expected rush of overseas cash into the once secretive state and other measures to bolster Burma’s long-neglected economy.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who will miss the first few sessions as she recovers from her gruelling European tour, said yesterday the NLD will join “the legislative concert” and push for greater “transparency” once inside parliament.
The 67-year-old, who returned on Saturday from a triumphant five-nation European tour, was swept into parliament in landmark April by-elections that saw the NLD win 43 of the 44 seats it contested.
She will now travel to the capital Naypyidaw over the weekend, after visiting her constituency following more than a month’s absence, to make her debut as an MP on Monday.
The session recasts the NLD from the role of dissidents to the heart of Burma’s political decision making, offering an opportunity to shape policy as well as posing the challenge of governing for the first time.
“It (parliament) is the best stage to illustrate our efforts towards democracy,” said the lower house MP Phyo Min Thein who won his seat in Hlegu township near Rangoon.
“As the main opposition in parliament we must strengthen our teamwork,” he added.
The session resumes a day after around 20 political prisoners were given amnesty.