22 August to 25 November, Burma’s Parliament held its second
session. Despite the regime’s claim that an elected legislature
was a crucial step towards the emergence of its “discipline-flourishing
democracy,” the Parliament turned out to be the regime’s
key tool for institutionalizing oppression.
The pro-regime Union Solidarity
and Development Party (USDP)-dominated Parliament refused to repeal
the draconian laws that provided the basis for the imprisonment
of several thousand political prisoners in recent years. The refusal
of Parliament to do away with the existing oppressive laws made
the adoption of new and more progressive legislation irrelevant.
The much-publicized “Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration
Law” and “Labor Organizations Law” will not be
sufficient to guarantee freedom of assembly and workers’ rights
as long as the regime is still able to invoke the blanket “security”
provisions of draconian laws.
The Parliament’s second session
repeated the sham parliamentary debates witnessed during the January-March
first session. Important issues, such as national reconciliation
and the ongoing conflict in ethnic areas were only marginally discussed.
During question time, regime ministers and officials went to great
lengths to categorically deny human rights abuses and to justify
Debate and approval of the national
budget remained off-limits to MPs because State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe approved the budget for
the 2011-2012 financial year before Parliament convened on 31 January.
The laws that govern parliamentary
proceedings, enacted by Than Shwe in October 2010, continued to
severely restrict parliamentary debate and participation. Censorship
and lack of access continued to characterize the media environment
during the Parliament’s second session.