RANGOON — Dozens of members from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been threatened at gunpoint by an ethnic militia to resign from the party, according to party leaders in east Burma.
More than 50 party members resigned after the militia stormed their NLD office in southern Shan State’s Taunggyi Township last Thursday, according to Khin Moe Moe, the party’s chairman in the township.
The rebels were from the Pa-O National Organization (PNO), an ethnic political group, but they were also part of a militia controlled by the group’s former armed wing.
The incident occurred after the NLD organized a protest against the militia, which had seized land from party members in Mauk San village, Khin Moe Moe told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
During the protest last Thursday, two NLD members were initially detained by the militia, party members said.
“They released two people after we went to negotiate with them, but they detained three more from another village, Zet Tay,” said NLD member Tin Maung Toe.
Tin Maung Toe said the two released members were forced to sign a document which promised they would not return to their land again and apologized for organizing the protest. They were also threatened with guns until they resigned, he added.
He said the militia seized the NLD office later that day, holding guns as they threatened the dozens of party members in the office to resign.
Kun Tun Sein, also from the NLD, said he heard that more party members in Htee Por village also planned to resign because they feared for their safety.
The NLD members on Monday sent the state government a letter to request protection.
“We told the [state] election committee and the state government how our local party members were threatened and forced to resign,” said Khin Moe Moe. “This was a human rights abuse, and it violates the rights of citizens according to our country’s Constitution.”
The leaders of the NLD wanted to solve this problem quietly, she said, because the party has a policy to cooperate with ethnic political parties. “We will try to solve this problem peacefully and will use a soft strategy,” she said.
The PNO has denied the allegations.
“We did not threaten their members to resign from their party. We didn’t seize their office or arrest any of their members,” said Zaw Pyan, a colonel and spokesman from the PNO militia, adding that the militia only deployed troops as security in villages.
He said the NLD had turned to local residents for support in the land dispute and he worried the conflict would divide communities.
“We want to solve the land conflict with rule of law,” he added. “Our local people don’t understand their land rights. They don’t have any paper documents, even though they say the land belongs to them.”
The PNO is a political organization of the ethnic Pa-O people, with the Pa-O National Army (PNA) as its military wing. After the party’s joint election in 2010, the armed wing served as a militia group.
The PNO, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1991, controls Special Region-6 in south Shan State and has been granted a number of business concessions.