Election 2020

NLD Reaches Out to Myanmar’s Ethnic Parties Seeking Federal Union and an End to Civil War

By Nyein Nyein 13 November 2020

Only a few days after election, the victorious and ruling National League for Democracy party is making overtures to 48 ethnic political parties, calling on them to join the NLD in building a democratic federal union. Together they could “work effectively for ethnic affairs and ending civil war,” the NLD’s spokesperson said.

The NLD’s move is the first of its kind. It made no such political offer back in 2015 after its landslide victory that year. That omission subsequently caused a rift between the NLD and Myanmar’s ethnic political parties.

In Sunday’s election, the NLD has so far secured 399 of the 642 total union parliamentary seats, putting it in an even stronger position than before.

Dr. Myo Nyunt, the NLD party’s spokesman, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday the party had made “the political offer” as “first move after the election” and hoped that the ethnic parties would soon respond to the NLD.

Forty-eight ethnic political parties representing Kachin, Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Kayan, Lahu, Ta’ang (Palaung), Kaman, Khami, Mro, Dainet, Tai Leng, Chin, Danu, Zomi, Kokang, Dawei, Pao, Akha, Zo, Naga, Kayah, Lisu, Wa and Inn are listed in the NLD’s Facebook post along with its letter entitled “For Future Union Affairs” signed by its vice chairman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung.

Myanmar’s ethnic people have long been pushing the central government for greater equality and self-determination. Some have launched armed struggles in border areas, resulting in the world’s longest civil war.

Dr. Myo Nyunt added that the party opens its door to any ethnic political parties who share the same political objectives to join them at any time.

The letter says, “The ethnic parties’ objectives are the same as the NLD’s and the NLD would prioritize the ethnic’s desires in the future.” It expressed hope that the ethnic parties would cooperate on democratic federal union efforts.

Dr. Myo Nyunt said the NLD’s “first move after the election aims to work effectively for ethnic affairs and ending civil war,” noting that the NLD government will focus on those affairs in the next five years, building on its governing experience since 2015.

“We expect to get response sooner after each party discusses within their leadership,” he said.

However, some parties said they have not received the letter [as of Thursday afternoon]. Though they had seen the letter on the NLD’s Facebook page, they were still trying to check its authenticity.

Daw Khin Saw Wai of Arakan National Party and the Lower House parliamentarian for Rathaedaung township in Rakhine State, where the voting was cancelled on Sunday, said they had learned about the overture via Facebook and while it is a positive step it needs to be followed by actual implementation.

“The collaboration with the ethnic groups is necessary because the ethnic groups want a path to a genuine federal democracy,” she said.”

U Kyaw Min Htike, a joint-secretary of Dawei National Party said the move has to be welcomed and they would need thorough discussion on how to cooperate.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, the vice chair of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy party, said he does not have any comment yet on the overture because they have not received the letter yet.

The NLD’s action could be about making allies with the ethnic parties, but some politicians approached it cautiously.

Tar Hla Pe, the central executive committee member of Ta’ang National Party, said in his personal view, the NLD’s offer could not erase the rift that its vice chairman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung himself created during the pre-election period.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung urged the voters to vote for the party, which could form the government, rather than voting for an ethnic party.  That remark angered the ethnic political parties and sparked a push for ethnic voters to vote for the ethnic parties in their respective states.

“Making such an offer to join hands now would be better, if Dr. Zaw Myint Maung had not made that remark during the election campaign, but he had already hurt the ethnics’ feelings,” said Tar Hla Pe.

NLD’s making overtures to 48 political parties are listed as below.

  1. Lahu National Development Party
  2. Kayan National Party
  3. Karen People’s Party
  4. Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party
  5. Shan Nationalities Democratic Party
  6. Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party
  7. Kaman National Development Party
  8. Khami National Development Party
  9. Mro National Party
  10. Tai Lai (Shanni) National Development Party
  11. Asho Chin National Party
  12. Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Party
  13. Danu Nationalities Democracy Party
  14. Zomi Congress for Democracy
  15. Shan State Kokang Democratic Party
  16. Kachin National Congress Party
  17. Dawei National Party
  18. Union PaO Nationalities League
  19. Arakan National Party
  20. Khumi (khami) National Part
  21. Karen National Party
  22. Mro National Democracy Party
  23. Danu National League
  24. Shan-ni (Tai Leng) Solidarity Party
  25. Laovao National Unity and Development Party
  26. Akhar National Development Party
  27. Zo Ethnic region Development Part
  28. Women’s Party (Mon)
  29. Dainet National Development Party
  30. Arakan League for Democracy Party
  31. Arakan Front Party
  32. Kachin State People’s Party
  33. Chin National League for Democracy Party
  34. Mon Unity Party
  35. Chin National Party
  36. New Democracy Party (Kachin)
  37. Naga National Party
  38. Inn National League Party
  39. Kachin National Party
  40. PaO National Organization
  41. Kokang Democracy and Unity Party
  42. Kayah State Democratic Party
  43. Karen National Democratic Party
  44. Mro National Development Party
  45. Rakhine State National Force Party
  46. Inn National Development Party
  47. Lisu National Development Party
  48. Wa National Party

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