Clad in distinctive traditional orange jackets and tops, dozens of National League for Democracy (NLD) representatives walked into the legislature buildings of Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions on Monday to begin their work as new parliamentarians.
Across Myanmar this week, the mostly NLD-dominated regional and state assemblies convened for the first time since the party’s Nov. 8 election win, and the regions’ and states’ speakers and their deputies were announced.
Rumours also swirled over who would assume the powerful chief minister posts of the state and regions.
The new NLD MPs in Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions turned the chambers orange by conforming to the Pinni-style dress popular with party members. The garb is associated with the independent movement during British colonial days and the pro-democracy struggle of the NLD during the junta years.
Pinni outfits now dominate parliaments in all but two state and regions, and NLD candidates were elected as speakers and deputy speakers in 12 out of 14 state and region parliaments.
Only in Rakhine and Shan states were the Arakan National Party (ANP) and the outgoing, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) able to elect non-NLD speakers and deputy speakers.
In the Yangon Region parliament, which used to be dominated by the white-and-green of USDP, only four men in such outfits were seen. The same is true in the Ayeyarwady, known as Myanmar’s rice bowl.
MILITARY MPS MUM
In Yangon Region parliament, Moe Moe Su Kyi, a 47-year-old female NLD parliamentarian, chaired the first day session and oversaw the swearing in of Tin Maung Tun, an NLD MP from Dagon Township constituency 1 as speaker of the house.
In the Ayeyarwady Region capital Pathein, a veteran NLD MP MarnJawni chaired the parliament session. A winning candidate in the 1990 elections, whose results were ignored by the military regime, he has been tipped for the post of chief minister of Ayeyarwady Region. Aung KyawKhaing from the NLD was elected as the speaker.
The green, uniformed block - the army officers controlling a quarter of regional and state parliaments - also took up their seats across Myanmar on Monday, but they had little to say on their role in the legislatures.
Few were willing to speak to the media, including Brigadier-General Thein Naing, the son-in-law of former strongman Senior-General Than Shwe. A first-time representative in Yangon Region parliament, he is also its highest ranking officer.
“Today is the first day. So we have nothing to say at the moment,” Thein Naing told Myanmar Now.
Another military colonel in Yangon Region parliament who requested anonymity said they have not received any instructions yet from senior officers on their stance in the parliament. “As we are soldiers, we will have to just take on the military’s duties,” he said.
Colonel Kyaw Zin Oo, another military representative in Yangon Region, said he does not believe the NLD-dominated parliament and its government could make dramatic changes. “Regardless of who is the ruling party, the cooperation of the public is more important,” he added.
Military MPs in the Ayeyarwady Region parliament refused to comment on legislative matters.
Zaw Aye Maung, Rakhine Ethnic Affairs Minister of Yangon Region government, has high expectations, however, saying more could be done during the term of the new Yangon Region government and its legislature.
Tin Win, a USDP MP from the tiny Cocokyun Township constituency, said he was concerned with how much autonomy there would be for state and region governments.
“I’ve requested for the state and region governments to be given more authority and autonomy. If everybody could get a chance to contribute their efforts, the development of our country will automatically follow,” said the representative of the tiny island dominated by an army base.
Some NLD MPs are confident on their ability to affect change. “(The military) also wants change. I think they and their family members also want to see Myanmar as a modern country of international standards,” said Aung KyawKhine, the new speaker for Ayeyarwady Region parliament, when asked about the expectations for his term.