The 1000-plus MPs preparing for the first session of parliament on 31 January have been carefully instructed in what to wear, and what not to bring.
An invitation sent out to the men and women who won seats in Burma’s elections last November calls on MPs to report to the parliament office in the secretive capital Naypyidaw by 27 January.
Despite the overwhelming victory of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), politicians from 22 parties, as well as several independent candidates, will travel to Naypyidaw next week in lieu of the first seating.
“Materials banned from being brought into the parliament premises include cameras, radios, cassette players, computers, hand phones, any kind of voice transmission or recording devices, ammunitions and explosives, bags, shoulder bags and Gaung Baung boxes [for carrying the traditional Burmese turban],” said Dr Myat Nyarna Soe, an MP-elect from the National Democratic Force (NDF).
On 28 January the MPs will be issued with certificates by the Union Election Commission to recognise them as MPs, as well as MP identification cards, summarised personal biographies and law books.
Dr Myat Nyarna Soe said that strict dress codes had also been issued for men and women. Men will wear a “stiff-collar shirt, appropriate type of longyi, [Burmese] jacket and the Gaung Baung [turban]”, while women are required to wear long-sleeved jackets and a scarf.
“Ethnic [MPs] can wear their own traditional attires and the Tatmadaw [army] members are to wear the dress appointed by the Ministry of Defence.”
A quarter of parliamentary seats automatically went to pre-appointed military officials prior to the vote. They will be involved in the election of a parliamentary head – one of the top items on the agenda for the first session – as well as the election of a president and three vice presidents.
Critics claim that the presence of the military alongside the 80 percent of elected seats won by the USDP, which is backed by the ruling junta, means that prospects of a true civilian government are unlikely.
No word has yet been given on what role the ageing junta chief Than Shwe will play. Several of his senior military colleagues resigned their posts prior to the elections in order to compete.
Dr Myat Nyarna Soe predicted the first session may last between two and four weeks – the two-chamber Union Parliament will meet in Naypyidaw at the same time the various regional legislatures convene around the country.