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The National League for Democracy (NLD) has confirmed its selection of speakers for Burma’s next parliament, which will convene for the first time on Monday 1 February.
The senior speakerships went to party members Win Myint, for the lower house and Win Khaing Than, for the upper house. Their deputies will be Ti Khun Myat of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Aye Thar Aung of the Arakan National Party (ANP) respectively.
The appointments, made by NLD Chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi’s inner sanctum and announced on Thursday, are reflective of the November election-winner’s stated commitment to a politically and ethnically inclusive administration. Win Myint is the only ethnic-Bamar among the quartet. Ti Khun Myat is Kachin, Win Khaing Than is Karen and Aye Thar Aung is Arakanese.
The military-backed USDP and the ANP, the most successful ethnic party at last year’s ballot, are recognised as two of Burma’s most significant political parties.
The appointments were not without controversy. The swiftness of the NLD’s rapprochement with its former foes in the USDP has irked some within the party.
The choice of the USDP’s Ti Khun Myat to be deputy speaker of the lower house has also raised eyebrows. The Kachin parliamentarian is alleged to be the leader of the Kutkai Militia, known as the PMF. The group has fought recent battles against local rebel groups including the Ta’ang National Liberation Army on behalf of Naypyidaw. In 2011, Shan anti-drug campaigners alleged Ti Khun Myat’s involvement in the drug trade via the PMF. His family has vigorously denied the allegation to DVB.
Speaking to reporters outside parliament on Thursday, Ti Khun Myat was coy about his new posting.
“[The speaker positions] are to be implemented in accordance with procedures when the new parliament convenes. I believe that a strong parliament is crucial for democratic reforms – only when the parliament is strong, it can work to fulfil people’s wishes,” Ti Khun Myat said.
NLD central executive committee member Win Htein announced the appointments early on Thursday morning, one week after fellow NLD spokesperson Nyan Win had “leaked” the names and parties in line for selection to the French news agency AFP. The NLD quickly disavowed the information with a notice posted online shortly after.