When newly elected Members of Parliament took their seats in Myanmar’s State and Region Hluttaws (Parliaments) in April 2016, the majority of MPs were new to their role, with many having limited prior experience in politics and government. The high turnover of MPs also meant limited access to MPs with knowledge of the parliament’s customs and practices.
The State and Region Hluttaws are also relatively new institutions (initially constituted in early 2011) and the legal framework in which they operate is still developing. For the new MPs building their understanding of their legislative, oversight and representation roles within the constitutional framework can also create challenges.
An online course in parliamentary practices and procedures, available in Myanmar language and edited to reflect the Myanmar context, has provided Myanmar’s State and Region MPs with tools and guidance for their role as an MP, and for making their parliament more effective and open. A UNDP-supported professional development programme has been introducing the online course to Myanmar’s State and Region MPs since late 2016.
The online learning environment, and the use of a laptop, are new experiences for many MPs, and the professional development programme has involved bringing all MPs from a particular State or Region together, in a facilitated, interactive seminar where MPs improve their IT skills, while also discussing ways to improve the effectiveness of their parliament.
In Mon State, first-term MP and university graduate, Daw Mya Theingi Maw, spent her working life in durian and rambutan orchards in Mudon Township, which she now represents in the Mon State Hluttaw.
Daw Mya Theingi Maw and her fellow Mon State MPs completed the online parliamentary practice course during a two-day seminar in December 2016, with the online course material supplemented by group discussions, and presentations from a former Region Hluttaw Speaker and international parliamentary experts. Daw Mya Theingi Maw said the seminar provided her with ideas on how to improve constituency consultation and promote greater sharing of information with her constituents.
In each State and Region, MPs share their experiences as different topics are covered in the online course material. In Magway Region, as MPs discussed different criteria for reviewing new laws, U Htay Win, MP (Htilin 1 constituency) said it was crucial for MPs to consider possible implementation and enforcement problems when they review laws. U Htay Win said that recent laws to increase penalties for motorbike riders not wearing helmets were not being enforced consistently across all townships in Magway Region, and it was important for law makers to understand potential implementation problems, and address these during the law-making process.
MPs from all State and Region Hluttaws will participate in the professional development programme, providing them with practical knowledge and tools, and experiences from within Myanmar and around the world, to build their individual skills as an MP, and build the strength of their relatively young parliaments after the significant changes from the 2015 elections.