RANGOON — The National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) say they will not accept properties if the government agrees to offer up real estate to Burma’s political parties, as was recently proposed by the Union Election Commission.
Burma’s Union Election Commission submitted proposals last week requesting that President Thein Sein provide land for offices and car import permits to the country’s 65 registered political parties.
In two letters sent to the President’s Office on May 22, the UEC requested that the executive consider distributing state-owned lands for political parties’ use and issuing car import licenses—allowing for the duty-free purchase of foreign-made vehicles that would otherwise come with a steep import tax—for the parties to use for campaigning purposes.
Khun Htun Oo, a senior leader from the SNLD, told The Irrawaddy that his party would not accept properties offered by the government in line with the UEC proposal.
“It will have strings attached, if our party takes their [government] properties. This is why we will not take it,” said Khun Htun Oo. “We want our party to stand independently. If there is anything to criticize them [the government] on, we will not be hesitant to do it.”
An NLD lawmaker from the Lower House of Parliament said his party, Burma’s largest opposition party, would also decline any real estate handout from the government.
“Aunt [NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi] has often told us not to be a burden on the people. Our party will not take these properties, even though they [government] have offered them.”
Some political parties, however, have not ruled out the possibility of taking government land for use in setting up offices in Rangoon or elsewhere.
“One year ago, some political parties proposed this to the Union Election Commission when they met in Rangoon, having had difficulties opening offices in Rangoon,” said Thu Wai, who is chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar). “They have had funding problems. This is why the UEC proposed it to Parliament.”
Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF) party, said the UEC proposal might appeal to the country’s underfunded smaller parties, and the NDF leader rejected the notion that accepting the offer might compromise those parties.
“Some small political parties have many difficulties staying running long term, as they have financial shortages,” Khin Maung Swe said.
“Those well-known and popular political parties have no problem with financing, as they can get donations from some businessmen. But small political parties and those that are not well known have many difficulties standing for a long time.”