Burma Parliament Reconvenes with Focus on Economy

Posted July 4th, 2012 at 1:50 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's parliament reconvenes Wednesday, with lawmakers set to begin debate on a series of laws aimed at developing the impoverished country's long-stagnant economy.

The new session of the National Assembly is a key test for rapidly changing Burma, which has made a series of dramatic political reforms since its long-time military rulers stepped aside last year.

President Thein Sein has promised a second wave of economic reforms, vowing passage of a law to regulate the flow of overseas cash set to stream into Burma as international sanctions are lifted from the once-isolated country.

Lawmakers are also expected to debate bills on minimum wage, corruption, and media censorship during the current parliamentary session, which is expected to last until September.

Although members of the formerly banned National League for Democracy will take their seats in parliament, they will do so without their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is recovering from an exhausting five-nation tour of Europe.

The pro-democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner was elected to parliament in April by-elections in which the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats it contested.

But the NLD, now the country's main opposition group, will likely have little chance to exert its influence in a parliament that is still overwhelmingly dominated by military-backed parties.

Even so, Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday her party has already prepared several motions to be discussed in the current parliamentary session.

“Regarding the work that we have to do, since now I will be a part of the National Assembly, we'll be involved in the legislative process. Our party has already prepared some motions to be tabled and this will be done of course.”

The session resumes a day after Burma announced the release of at least 20 political prisoners as part of an amnesty the government says is aimed at promoting national unity.

The move was met with cautious optimism from rights groups and activists, who have called on the government to release all of the estimated hundreds of prisoners of conscience who remain jailed.