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Interview: ‘With the NLD in power, the Tatmadaw can’t interfere’

Lawmakers takes their seats as parliament gavels in for a session on 2 May 2015. (Photo: DVB)

Arakan National Party lower house MP Pe Than sat down to talk to DVB about what we can expect to be discussed in the next sitting of parliament. Pe Than has been in parliament for two consecutive terms.

Question: What will be the developments in the next parliament session when it resumes?

Answer: Before the parliament went into recess, it mainly focused its time on the formation of the new government and legislative bodies – there was no formal discussion of questions and proposals put forward by the MPs. I think these committees, now in function, will have issues to discuss when the parliament resumes. For example, the newly formed Farmers’ Committee has outlined it will discuss issues about land disputes, and the parliament in the coming week will also discuss various bills aimed at abolishing or amending certain laws. I hope it will be eventful.

Q: When parliament kicked off earlier this year, we saw stiff opposition from the military representatives to proposals put forward by NLD lawmakers. Do you think we will see a repeat of that when the next session resumes?

A: I think it is likely. The Tatmadaw will promptly object to something that is in conflict to their interests. There may be frictions between the civilian lawmakers and the Tatmadaw in the parliament. The Tatmadaw is virtually the only strong force of opposition in the parliament at the moment. I think we will continue to see disagreements in the parliament until there is reconciliation.

Q: The state-run newspapers recently reported on a parliamentary bill aimed at abolishing the laws such as the 1975 State Protection Law. How do you think the Tatmadaw will respond to such moves?

A: It was the law used by the previous military regimes to hold political activists in detention indefinitely – at times longer than the prison terms to which they were sentenced. However, as the NLD government now wields the lawmaking power, the Tatmadaw won’t be able to interfere, even though they might not agree with these changes. Times are changing and the Tatmadaw’s view may also be changing on political activists. I don’t think the Tatmadaw will respond aggressively except from expressing discontent.

Q: Today people in Arakan State are marching in the streets calling for an end to the armed conflict in their region. What is the parliament’s plan for Arakan State?

A: At the moment we are preparing to put forward an emergency proposal in the parliament regarding this. We expect to do it within two or three days after parliament resumes. This is what we must strive for, as it is the people’s will to see an end to the fighting.

Interview by Win Aung.