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Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Thursday turned down a 400,000 kyat (US$400) travel stipend provided by the legislature.
The lower house of parliament announced on 30 July that MPs would be allowed to draw an advance allowance for work-related visits to their constituencies during the forthcoming parliamentary session break, which will begin on 2 August.
The allowance has been accorded under articles six to ten of the Law Relating to Emoluments and Allowances of the Representatives of the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house), chapter three: Allowance for Accommodation and Other Expenses.
“The stipend, which is provided by lower house funds, comes with instructions that usage will be subject to auditing. MPs are to return leftover money. We decided not to accept the money as there is no law specifying these procedures,” said Min Thu, a lower house MP representing the NLD for a constituency in Naypyidaw.
He added that MPs are free to accept or reject the funds at their discretion. “Most MPs, with the exception of the NLD representatives, took the stipend,” he said.
Among those who accepted were some ethnic MPs, who say they will need the funds for field visits, and that they are confident that extant regulations will be sufficient.
“While there is currently no law specifically for regulation of the stipend, the lower house has provided regulations for use,” said Ye Tun, a member of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party representing Hsipaw. “We took the stipend because we need it to study developments in our constituencies.”
Since Burma’s parliament first convened three years ago, Wednesday’s announcement was the first time such assistance had been offered to lower house members. No indication has been given about whether similar stipends will be offered to the upper house of parliament.