Historic day for Burma

"We learnt that the country wanted to change and that's why we are here" - Tin Thit. Photo / AP.
"We learnt that the country wanted to change and that's why we are here" - Tin Thit. Photo / AP.

Such a scene would have been unthinkable during the dark days of military rule in Burma.

But today, a throng of teachers, doctors, farmers, writers and poets - including more than 100 former political prisoners - take their seats in the country's first freely elected Parliament for 55 years.

They will be the representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) after her party's landslide election triumph in November.

None will symbolise the victory of the pro-democracy forces over the military and its political proxies better than U Tin Thit, a poet and ex-prisoner of the old regime who defeated a former general and Minister of Defence.

"We learnt that the country wanted change and that's why we are here," said Tin Thit, 49.

Only 13 NLD candidates named their profession as politician in November, but 115 of the party's 390 MPs can list "political prisoner" on their CVs.

They will sit with representatives of the forces that once jailed them - a quarter of MPs are serving military officers appointed by the commander-in-chief - in a grandiose Parliament chamber in Naypyidaw, the new capital carved out of paddy fields and jungle by the junta just 10 years ago.

What is still not clear is what Suu Kyi's title will be after the new Government is formed during the next two months.

The military retains control of three ministries, including the Ministry of the Interior, and its constitutional veto via its appointees in Parliament.

It has been rumoured that it might waive the constitutional clause that bars her from becoming president in return for other concessions.

But for now, most analysts believe the most likely scenario is that she will name a trusted aide as a "puppet" head of state while she runs the country, in her words, from a position "above the presidency".

-Telegraph Group Ltd

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 28 May 2017 05:43:25 Processing Time: 343ms