RANGOON — An umbrella group of ethnic political parties known as the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) met with Aung San Su Kyi on Sunday and agreed to work with the opposition leader to push a three-point agenda for Burma’s political future.
The two sides agreed that amending the 2008 Constitution, ensuring free and fair elections later this year and the convening of “genuine” political dialogue among Burma’s political stakeholders should be centerpieces of a reform program that began in 2011 but, critics including Suu Kyi say, has stalled of late.
The discussion was held on Sunday at the Naypyidaw residence of Suu Kyi, who serves as chairwoman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Gin Kan Lian, secretary of the Zomi Congress for Democracy Party, attended the meeting and said the joint three-point position would be formally announced within weeks.
“We didn’t discuss in detail and we agreed to discuss these three matters in the future. Both of us will discuss with our respective groups and will issue a joint agreement.”
Suu Kyi and UNA representatives last met to discuss constitutional reform in September 2013, and this weekend’s meeting comes less than a week after President Thein Sein convened a 48-party dialogue that was criticized by some as ineffectual window-dressing.
Gin Kan Lian called the 48-party meeting “chatter dialogue,” with participants only afforded three to five minutes to state their positions and attendees failing to engage in substantive discussion or reach significant agreement.
He did not take a position on whether the UNA would back the six-party talks that Suu Kyi has endorsed, saying only that the alliance supported “genuine political dialogue.”
The UNA has separately called for a tripartite dialogue that would include the Burmese government, ethnic armed groups and political parties, and the NLD.
Thus far, however, Thein Sein has ignored those calls, as well as endorsements by Suu Kyi and Parliament for six-party talks.
The president’s convening of the 48-party talks earlier this month was preceded by a 14-party dialogue in November that was also criticized as a largely substanceless affair.
Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy told The Irrawaddy: “We will discuss these three agreements with our partner groups and will return to meet NLD soon.”
Dr. Min Soe Linn, from the Mon Democracy Party, told The Irrawaddy that in February the UNA would hold a meeting that would be more inclusive than a gathering it held in December, which saw only 22 groups attend out of an invitation list of 33 organizations with close ties to the UNA.
The UNA says the same 33 organizations will be invited to the February meeting, at which the proposed three-point agenda will be discussed.
“We wanted to find common ground among political parties in order to have future political dialogue. We wanted to get out from the current impasse. We will cooperate with the public on our movement. The government has to pay attention to our movement if the public supports us.”
The UNA is an umbrella group of eight ethnic political parties that was formed following the 1990 elections, when the ruling junta refused to cede power following a landslide NLD victory. Originally it was comprised of 12 different political parties.
UNA members refused to participate in the 2010 national elections on the grounds that they opposed the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Some UNA leaders have indicated, however, that they intend to participate in national elections slated for late this year.