Government authorities in western Burma are reportedly blocking MPs from conducting fact-finding missions in the region, drawing the ire of parliamentarians who say their job is “pointless” if they cannot meet with constituents.
Pe Than from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) says he had checked with officials prior to setting out on a recent trip to meet with local villagers, only to be forced to return by the Myebon township chairman who claimed there was “no permission from superior authorities”.
Myebon was hit hard by cyclone Giri in October last year – the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) said that 10,000 houses in the town were destroyed by days of heavy storms, and six months on only a fraction of these have been rebuilt.
Pe Than said it was “important” to meet with victims of the cyclone, which left around 86,000 homeless and 100,000 without adequate food and water. He said he would “continue with his plan to visit the villages” given it was not within the remit of the Myebon chairman to stop him.
He added that fact-finding trips such as these were an important medium through which to relay information to Burma’s parliament.
A central court lawyer told DVB on condition of anonymity that township chairmen could block such trips under the pretext of “preserving public tranquillity”, one of the many arbitrary laws contained in Burma’s constitution. He said however that stopping MPs without giving a valid reason was beyond the bounds of his authority.
MPs have at times complained of being stonewalled in the new parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members.
Some observers say however that there is a greater degree of transparency and disclosure of information, compared to recent times in Burma where administrative discussion was almost non-existent outside of the tight clique of military generals ruling the country.
Another RNDP member, Maung Lone, was also reportedly blocked by the Myebon chairman from holding a conference with locals in his native village of Kantaungyi, Arakan state.
“When he phoned the township administration office, Min Khine Win told him not to hold the conference as superior authorities didn’t give permission to do so,” said Pe Than.
Min Khine Win was unavailable for comment when contacted by DVB.