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People unimpressed by new parliament

Christian leaders say Myanmar is unlikely to see major changes

People unimpressed by new parliament
Catholics in Yangon pray for a peaceful election (File photo) reporter, Bangkok

February 3, 2011

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For local community leaders in Myanmar it’s a challenge to predict for the future despite the convening of the first sessions of parliament in 22 years. “As long as the authorities keep working for themselves and their minority group without putting in self-sacrificing work for the majority of the poor people in the country, there will not be peace and justice in the country,” a Catholic priest from Myanmar who asked not to be named for security reasons told He said he “does not see any major change” even though the authorities claim they are steering the country toward democracy and away from a military-style government. For all practical purposes it is only the use of the word “democracy” that will seem to be the change in the new Parliament, he said. A 24-year-old Christian youth leader from Myanmar said majority of the young people are not interested in the new parliament because “its like stories repeated by old people as the same person will lead the country.” The majority of young people are struggling for a better life, work for their future, he said. “The majority of youth are not interesting in the new parliament as it seems to be unfair and not free. I think after four or five years only will there be a little change for the better,” said a 32-year-old Christian from western Myanmar. A Catholic teacher pointed out that it is difficult for people to do anything for change. “Many countries seek their own benefit and practically do nothing to help bring about change for the better in Myanmar though they do call for repeated talks and release statements,” the Yangon resident told Military-ruled Myanmar convened its first sessions of parliament in 22 years on Jan. 31. Hundreds of parliamentarians elected during the Nov. 7 gathered for simultaneous, closed-door sessions of the House of Representatives, the lower house, and the House of Nationalities, the upper house. Parliament is dominated by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won 79% of the seats in the two houses. The junta-sponsored Constitution that was adopted in 2008 requires that 25 percent of parliamentary seats be filled with military representatives selected by the commander-in-chief. The military has ruled the country since 1962. It portrayed the holding of the parliamentary session as the sixth step in the seven-step ‘‘road map to democracy’’ which the military authorities launched in 2003. The country’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, is not represented in parliament. It boycotted the November elections, the country’s first in over two decades, on the grounds that the military-drawn electoral laws were ‘‘unfair.” Suu Kyi’s party had won the 1990 election by a landslide but the military refused to hand over power.   Related report Rights group steps up criticism on Myanmar MY13148.1639
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