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Asean Affairs  31  January 2011

The Myanmar Parliament opens

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     31 January 2011

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Meeting at the presumably auspicious time of 8:55 a.m. (the Myanmar generals frequently consult fortune tellers), Myanmar’s Parliament opened on Monday in the capital, Naypyidaw. Security was tight, media reported. With the opening of the bicameral Parliament, the military junta that has ruled Myanmar since 1988 was dissolved.

A quarter of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military and a military-backed party controls more than 80 percent of the rest.

In line with the new parliament, neighboring Thailand has led an offensive to have economic sanctions lifted. Speaking by an audio feed to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzeralnd, junta opponent, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, urged the forum attendees to invest in Myanmar.

The new parliament will not resemble most other parliaments in the rest of the world. Myanmar’s in-exile media report that parliamentary questions must be submitted 10 days in advance.

A significant issue is whether Myanmar’s top general, Than Shwe, 78, will become president, the most powerful job under the new Constitution, but one that requires him to resign as commander in chief.

Meanwhile, the military government is selling off buildings, factories and state-run companies, mostly to allies and family members of the country’s military leaders.

One should not expect great changes in Myanmar because of this governance system, however, the evolution of this new government in the next few years will be of interest.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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