A new committee tasked with scrutinising decisions made by Burma’s new parliament will consist wholly of civilian MPs, signalling a break from recent weeks which have seen the military’s political clout increasingly permeating key government bodies.
The Government’s Guarantees, Pledges and Undertakings Vetting Committee is the fourth and final parliamentary body to be formed, as dictated by the constitution. Fifteen civilians will make up the membership, among them Dr Aye Maung, who heads the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and who was voted to chair the new committee.
The RNDP came fourth in the elections, having surprised the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in many constituencies in the country’s western Arakan state.
What may surprise observers is the elevation of a so-called opposition politician, or at least one that is not allied to the ruling junta, to a senior position in a body dedicated to examining whether any suspicious behaviour is evident in the policy-making process.
Political corruption and favouritism is rife in Burma, which has been under military rule for nearly five decades, and the junta’s repeated assertions that it is transitioning to civilian rule and “disciplined democracy” have been met with widespread doubt.
Of the 15 members voted to the committee, eight are from the USDP and the remaining seven from a mixture of junta-backed and opposition parties, including the All Mon Region Democratic Party (AMRDP) and the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP). A USDP member will be president of the committee.
Burma’s parliament is dominated by members of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won 80 percent of the vote in last November’s elections and who are likely receive the tacit support of the 388 military personnel – comprising a quarter of the seats – who were appointed prior to the vote.
A significant proportion of the USDP’s upper ranks were once military, but shed their uniforms last year in order to compete in the polls. Many of these have been promoted to senior positions in a number of ministries and committees, despite assertions by the ruling junta that Burma’s is transitioning to civilian rule.
In contrast to a number of other ministries and committees, however, none of the Government’s Guarantees, Pledges and Undertakings Vetting Committee members have military backgrounds, although the majority USDP will likely sway any vote in favour of the pro-junta stance.
The three other committees already formed are Bill Committee, Public Accounts Committee and Hluttaw Rights Committee. The constitution however includes a clause allowing for the creation of a Defence and Security Committee, which it says will come into force “when the occasion arises to have studies made and submitted on defence and security matters or military affairs”.