NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar--Thura Shwe Mann, speaker of the lower house of Parliament, indicated he was open to parliamentary discussions to revise Myanmar’s Constitution in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), the largest opposition party, has called for revisions of the Constitution, which allots a large number of parliamentary seats for the military.
"If the Constitution does not match the interests of the people, consideration should be given about what to do," Shwe Mann said on June 7 at the Parliament building in the Myanmar capital, his first interview with the Japanese media.
However, he avoided giving a direct response when asked if he personally thought there was a need for a separate quota of seats for the military.
"It is not individuals who will decide on whether there is a need for constitutional revisions, but political parties and lawmakers," Shwe Mann said.
The NLD will participate in the lower house session expected to be convened next month.
Asked about the NLD, Shwe Mann said: "I do not consider it an opposition party. I hope to seek out ways for cooperation in order to work on behalf of the nation and the people. Discussions on the differences between the political parties can be conducted thereafter."
He also praised the reform efforts being undertaken by the government of President Thein Sein.
"I'm really glad to see this happening. Personally, I hope the reform process will move along speedily and effectively," Shwe Mann said.
In addition, he played down criticism that some Cabinet ministers and lawmakers are cautious about democratic reforms.
"The Constitution has defined the need for moves toward democracy and a market economic system," Shwe Mann said. "There is no one who is opposed to that."
Foreign governments, including Japan, and foreign companies have focused attention on legal revisions related to economic activity, such as the foreign investment law and the economic special zone law.
However, the Myanmar national legislature failed to enact such laws last year, and discussions are expected to continue.
Indicating that time was still needed to compile such laws, Shwe Mann said, "The concerned ministries and agencies will need to give serious consideration to how they can be used practically and widely."
He also said the legislature would work closely with the government to promote reform. "The lower house of Parliament will make efforts to not only pass such laws, but also to conduct smooth discussions on related laws, regulations and restrictions," he said.
In 2008, Shwe Mann was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the national military when he headed a delegation that visited North Korea. He is believed to be the military officer in charge of strengthening Myanmar’s military cooperation with Pyongyang.
While admitting to past military cooperation with North Korea, Shwe Mann said, "We always strictly respect UNSC resolutions."
In essence, he was denying suspicions that Myanmar received missile technology or parts from North Korea, or that Myanmar had a nuclear weapons program supported by Pyongyang.
Shwe Mann at one time was the third most powerful official of the State Peace and Development Council when the military controlled the government. Only Than Shwe, who served as head of the council, and Maung Aye, the deputy head, had more power.
He retired from the military to run successfully in the November 2010 national elections, the first held in 20 years.
- « Prev
- Next »