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Burma – on the road to democracy
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Meg Munn MP recently led a delegation to the Burmese parliament on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union UK. The group had been asked to put on workshops for female MPs and parliamentary staff to increase their knowledge, skills and understanding of parliamentary processes. It was a standalone project but complementary to other parliamentary strengthening activities, and undertaken in partnership with the British Embassy in Rangoon.
The delegation were honoured to be able to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during their visit. In Burma she is often known as Daw Suu - Daw being an honorific term. During a relaxed meeting the group discussed how important it is for there to be a diversity of representation in parliament. Daw Suu described how she believes that it is important that those seeking to represent people in parliament are either well educated or have a lot of life experience. Amongst those who meet these criteria it is then important to ensure diversity, which in Burma means ensuring representation of women, young people and those from an ethnic minority.
Burma will hold elections later this year. Aung San Suu Kyi set out the difficulty of campaigning as her party, the National League for Democracy, has very few resources. She also expressed concern that western governments are too quick to congratulate the Burmese Government on reform when in reality changes are very slow.
"During 2007/8 I was the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for South East Asia and I was actively involved in pressing the regime to move towards democracy. It was humbling to talk to Daw Suu knowing the long periods she has spent under house arrest, and the sacrifices she and her family have made.
It’s good to see her taking a leading role in her country although it is clear that there is still a long way to go before Burma is a full democracy. I was struck by her quiet determination and deep commitment. It was an honour and a pleasure to meet her.”
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