Interview

Consolidation of Prominent Kachin Parties Aspire to Form Coalition Govt in 2020

By Nan Lwin 3 July 2019

Homegrown political parties in Myanmar’s ethnic areas are merging together with the aim of increasing their chances of winning a majority of seats in both national and regional parliaments in the upcoming 2020 general elections. By winning more local parliament seats, ethnic politicians would have more authority to improve ethnic rights in their respective areas.

Non-NLD affiliated politicians from political parties in five out of eight of Myanmar’s major ethnic groups have merged to form new parties.

Three Kachin parties—the Kachin Democratic Party (KDP), the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP), and the Union and the Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS)—made the decision to merge. The new party is called Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP) and aims to be a stronger contender in the 2020 elections. Recently, the election commission approved the party’s registration application.

The Irrawaddy spoke with Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, central executive member and vice president of KSPP about their recent activities, strategic plans and the ethnic alliance’s political party agenda for the 2020 general election.

Recently, the election commission has approved Kachin State People’s Party’s (KSPP’s) registration application. What are the main reasons for the three Kachin parties to become one?  

We have a duty to lead our state as Kachin people. Unity could bring a victorious result. The main thing is we will heed the people’s voice in our state. We want to win at both state and Union level in the upcoming general election. We will try our best. We have decided to work for not only Kachin people, but also other ethnic groups or people in Kachin State.

Does the party have a strategic plan for the 2020 general election? 

We have not yet produced a separate strategic plan for the 2020 general election. However, we are prepared to contest about 18 townships in Kachin State. Our party needs to be stronger from state to Union level. As you already know, homegrown political parties in ethnic areas have been merging together in the hope of winning a majority of seats in both national and regional parliaments in the upcoming 2020 general elections. We plan to negotiate to form a coalition government with the other groups for the 2020 general election. We aim to work together for the benefit of all people.

Recently, representatives from KSPP met other ethnic alliance parties in Yangon. What did you discuss? 

We met with consolidated parties of Karen, Kayah, Chin and Mon states. The meetings have been held four times. Like KSPP, all those parties have already amalgamated between their ethnic parties. We shared up-to-date information about the party and discussed our future plans and how we will lay out a strategic plan for the elections. The Mon and Chin [parties] are still waiting for approval from the election commission to register their new consolidated party. Meanwhile, we have united five ethnic parties that represent five states across the country. At the same time, we have been trying to unite with other ethnic parties from the other states and regions too. Our main plan is to reach one agreement to form a coalition government in the 2020 election. We also plan to connect with the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) and the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF). [The UNA and NBF are consolidations of majority ethnic parties in Myanmar.

When you talk about the plan to form a coalition government with other ethnic parties, do you mean the agreement will be between only ethnic parties? Or would the ethnic parties make an agreement with other major parties? 

Honestly, we would not be able to form a government even if all the ethnic parties came together.  That’s why we ethnic political parties will make an agreement to form a coalition government with one party that can guarantee our rights and work with our interests. That could be any party, however we have not chosen yet which party we will form an alliance with. We can make the decision after we negotiate with the UNA and the NBF. We will speed up our discussion as soon as the Mon and Chin [parties] receive party registration approval. We will meet again in August.

Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, central executive member and vice president of Kachin State People’s Party at his home in Myitkyina, Kachin State on July 3, 2019./Htoi Awng

Which party do you foresee as a potential to form a coalition with? 

So far, we have not yet approached any Burmese party. We are still searching for a party that can work with us.

What is the suitability of the NLD in this respect?

I don’t think [we could work with them]. We have never seen the NLD have that kind of willingness (to form a coalition). Moreover, we also did not see that kind of willingness in 2015 (the last general election). Whether they have a plan to unite with us or not, they won’t win a landslide in 2020. We already calculated it. United ethnic parties will achieve more from their respective states and regions. The conditions will lead to us forming a coalition government.

Which factor indicates that the NLD won’t win the majority of seats in the ethnic states?

Let’s look at the by-election results in Kachin State. The NLD candidate [won fewer votes] than our party [member] in the run to represent the constituency in the Upper House. The condition is the same in other ethnic states. The local ethnic parties have become much stronger now. The NLD has less of a chance to earn votes from the ethnic people

What are the main issues to be tackled in Kachin State? 

We have many issues to tackle here. Of course, these include migration problems, drug issues, land grabs and natural resource [management]—particularly jade mining. We will try to handle these one by one. We promise the people in Kachin that there will be more transparency in whatever we do.

How would you choose candidates for election? 

We will choose people who are really capable [of working] for the people. When it comes to choosing candidates for the election, we will prioritize all the ethnic groups in Kachin, particularly young people, women and active citizens. We are currently setting up branches at township level. We plan to open branches across the whole state.

Recently, KSPP have met several foreign diplomats in Myitkyina. What would be your party’s foreign policy?

We will maintain a non-aligned foreign policy with foreign countries. We want to have balanced relations with Western countries, like the United States, and also with the likes of Japan. However, in Kachin State, we have conditions which result in us communicating with China more often, but China needs to know that it is important for relations with us to be fair.

What is your stance on the Myitsone hydropower project?

We don’t accept the revival of the Myitsone dam. We have been opposed to the Myitsone dam project since the outset of the project. Our people don’t agree with the project and our party is also against it. When it comes to Chinese investment in our state, we only want investments that guarantee benefits for both sides. We don’t want to feel like we are living under the Chinese government.

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