Class of 2016 gets first go at ASEAN law­mak­ers’ fo­rum

The Myanmar Times - - News - PYAE THET PHYO pyae­thet­phyo@mm­times.com

TOP­ICS ranged from the Zika virus and cli­mate change to women’s em­pow­er­ment and Myan­mar’s own Rakhine State prob­lems as law­mak­ers from through­out the ASEAN re­gion met over the week­end for the 37th Gen­eral As­sem­bly of the ASEAN In­ter­Par­lia­men­tary As­sem­bly (AIPA) in Nay Pyi Taw.

An agree­ment from the bloc’s fe­male par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to bet­ter pro­mote women’s rights was one take-away from the three-day gath­er­ing, ac­cord­ing to a Myan­mar MP in at­ten­dance.

Mem­bers of the Com­mit­tee on Women Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans agreed to urge their re­spec­tive leg­is­la­tures to en­act laws and poli­cies that will for­tify women’s rights in the work­place and fur­ther so­cial pro­tec­tions for them.

“For so­cial protection laws or poli­cies that can pro­mote gen­der equal­ity, we were able to agree that women law­mak­ers in the ASEAN re­gion are go­ing to urge their par­lia­ments to re­vise labour laws in line with in­ter­na­tional norms,” Amyotha Hlut­taw law­maker Daw Shwe Shwe Sein Latt (NLD; Bago 3), who is the leader of Myan­mar’s del­e­ga­tion to the Com­mit­tee on Women Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, told The Myan­mar Times at a press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of the as­sem­bly on Oc­to­ber 2.

She said fe­male law­mak­ers would work in their coun­tries’ par­lia­ments to de­velop prac­ti­cal pro­grams, such as al­low­ing work­ing moth­ers to breast­feed their ba­bies in the work­place, and bring­ing ma­ter­nity leave poli­cies in line with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

“We came to a de­ci­sion that MPs will urge [col­leagues] to en­act more so­cial pro­tec­tions and ma­ter­nity leave for wo­man work­ers, es­pe­cially women who lack op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Daw Shwe Shwe Sein Latt.

Ar­guably the re­gion’s most fa­mil­iar fe­male face, State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, opened the AIPA with a speech on Septem­ber 30.

She out­lined her govern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties at the six-month mark of her ad­min­is­tra­tion’s term, high­light­ing its sig­na­ture peace ini­tia­tive – the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence – and a re­vi­talised ap­proach to deal­ing with ethno-re­li­gious di­vi­sions in Rakhine State.

“The sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine is com­plex and it is the sub­ject of close at­ten­tion and con­cern out­side our bor­ders in the ASEAN re­gion and be­yond,” she said, not­ing the cre­ation of two sep­a­rate bod­ies, in­clud­ing an ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion chaired by for­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan, to ad­dress the state’s prob­lems.

“We are work­ing to build un­der­stand­ing, har­mony and trust be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, while stand­ing firm against prej­u­dice, in­tol­er­ance and ex­trem­ism,” she said.

“In do­ing so, we ask for the con­struc­tive sup­port of our re­gional neigh­bours. Progress in ev­ery field will not be pos­si­ble overnight, but we are de­ter­mined to per­se­vere, and to bring about pos­i­tive change in Rakhine State, as in other ar­eas of our coun­try af­fected by con­flict.”

Broad­en­ing the lens to is­sues on the AIPA agenda – cyber se­cu­rity, pro­tect­ing marine re­sources, mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change, sup­port­ing small and medium enterprises and Zika virus pre­ven­tion – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the wide-rang­ing na­ture of the docket re­flected the im­por­tance of re­gional co­op­er­a­tion.

“All these are is­sues that af­fect our cit­i­zens di­rectly, and where we have a duty to work to­gether, in a spirit of demo­cratic col­lab­o­ra­tion, to find ef­fec­tive and pro­gres­sive so­lu­tions,” she said.

This year’s gen­eral as­sem­bly was the first since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy won an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity in last Novem­ber’s elec­tion, claim­ing nearly 80 per­cent of elected seats in the Union leg­is­la­ture. With the NLD boy­cotting the 2010 gen­eral elec­tion, par­lia­ment this year is con­sid­ered a more ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of the con­stituen­cies it rep­re­sents, but the class of 2016 is also largely with­out leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

Isra Sun­thorn­vut, the Thai sec­re­tary gen­eral of the AIPA, told The Myan­mar Times that he none­the­less had “full trust” in the pol­i­cy­mak­ing abil­i­ties of the cur­rent crop of MPs.

The gen­eral as­sem­bly con­cluded on Oc­to­ber 2 with a han­dover cer­e­mony as Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than passed the gavel to the deputy speaker of the Philip­pines’ lower house, Eric Sing­son.

The 38th ASEAN In­ter-Par­lia­men­tary As­sem­bly will be held next year in the Philip­pines. Malaysia hosted the pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion in 2015.

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