YANGON: Aung San Suu Kyi and the other newly elected lawmakers in Myanmar's leading opposition party boycotted parliament Monday, but party officials expect their dispute over the oath of office to be resolved soon.
The National League for Democracy party objects to phrasing in the lawmakers' oath that says they must "safeguard the constitution," which they want amended because they say it gives too much power to the military.
The dispute comes as the European Union is expected to hold a meeting in Luxemburg later Monday in which it is expected to suspend most sanctions against Myanmar for a year while it assesses the country's progress toward democracy.
The absence from parliament of Suu Kyi and 42 other elected lawmakers who won historic April 1 byelections was expected, and her party says they will not attend until the dispute is resolved.
Suu Kyi's party wants the phrasing "safeguard the constitution" changed to "respect the constitution." The party says that phrasing was changed in the party registration law last year and other relevant laws should be changed as well.
Opposition lawmaker Ohn Kyaing confirmed the opposition's refusal to attend, and no party members were present Monday when the upper house began its session in the capital Nyapyitaw. But Ohn Kyaing said Sunday he believed the issue would be overcome quickly because there was support within President Thein Sein's administration to change the oath.
Party officials have played down the problem, saying they still expect the lawmakers to attend the assembly, possibly this week or next.
The oath is in an appendix to the constitution, and it is unclear whether it can be changed without the approval of 75 per cent of parliament.
The constitution automatically allocates 25 per cent of the parliamentary seats to unelected representatives of the military, and Suu Kyi's party maintains that is undemocratic.
The document also bars people from the nation's presidency if they or any of their relatives are foreign citizens; that effectively prevents Suu Kyi from ascending to the presidency because she married a British national, Michael Aris, who died in 1999, and their two children were born abroad and do not live in Myanmar.
Thein Sein has overseen a wave of political reforms since taking office a year ago, and analysts say his administration needs the opposition in parliament to gain international legitimacy.
The byelection's outcome, in which the opposition won almost all of the 45 seats up for grabs, was considered a major step toward reconciliation after decades of military rule in Myanmar.
Wooing Suu Kyi's party to rejoin politics after it boycotted the 2010 election was a key turning point in the government's campaign for Western economic sanctions imposed during military rule to be lifted.