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Burma Opens First Parliament in 20 Years

Heavy security in the capital reported, with police manning roadblocks
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2011 6:15 AM CST

(Newser) – Burma's first parliament in more than 20 years opened under tight security today, with armed police manning roadblocks on all routes leading to parliament and checking all buses carrying representatives for bombs. Delegates wore traditional attire, but were banned from carrying mobile phones, cameras, computers, and other electronic devices into the massive new parliament building in the remote capital city of Naypyitaw, reports the AP.

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"Now that parliament has convened, we have taken a step toward Myanmar's democratic change," said a member of an opposition party. But the ruling military and its allies hold more than 80% of the seats in both houses, ensuring their 49-year rule will continue for the time being. Unlike many democracies, speech in parliament is not protected, and representatives could face prosecution if their comments are thought to endanger national security or national unity. "We know about parliament going to be convened, but I think this is not our concern. Our concern is earning our daily bread," said the man, in his mid-30s.
(Read more Burma stories.)

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