Upper House MP Hla Swe said Myanmar’s government should provide assistance to civil society organisations to promote democracy outside parliament.
The MP made the comment during a debate titled “Which can better serve public interests — Politics inside or outside parliament?” held at the Royal Rose Restaurant in Yangon on Saturday.
Other debaters included Yangon Region MP Dr Nyo Nyo Thin, Ko Ko Gyi from the ’88 Generation Peace and Open Society and Khin Lay from Triangle Women Group, who also answered questions raised by attendees.
“Those who can shape politics outside parliament are CSOs. They need to be strong to ensure that smooth democratisation takes place in the country. The government must render assistance and encourage them,” said Hla Swe.
“All democratic countries say that progress can be achieved only if civic organisations are strong, so the government must help them instead of controlling their activities.”
In answering questions, he said parliament has surpassed the other branches of the government in advocating for democracy, giving parliament's impeachment of the Constitutional Tribunal as an example.
"The [executive branch] was at the forefront of the country’s reforms initially. However, its enthusiasm has waned, while parliament and the people have moved forward," he said.
Ko Ko Gyi said the role of political activists outside parliament would become more important if political representation in parliament grew weak, citing the effort to suspend the China-backed Myitsone dam project.
“When counting all parliamentarians, military MPs account for 28.6 per cent of the total, not 25 per cent (as guaranteed by the constitution),” said Ko Ko Gyi.
“The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party established by the military represents 44.8 percent of seats in Lower House of parliament and 47 percent in Upper House. In total, that party has the greatest control of parliament, while other political forces and ethnic representatives have little power. So I want to clearly state that the effort to suspend the Myitsone project was exerted outside parliament, not within parliament.”