People Long For What We Did For Them After 2010: SNDP Chair

By The Irrawaddy 12 December 2022

The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), also known as the White Tiger party, is one of two major ethnically Shan parties in Shan State. It says it is planning to run in the Myanmar junta’s general election being planned next year. The planned election is being denounced by a majority of the population, the civilian National Unity Government and the international community.

The SNDP was among numerous political parties which met the junta-installed Union Election Commission (UEC) on changes to the electoral system from first past the post (FPTP) to proportional representation (PR), following the coup in February last year.

The junta is keen on PR because under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution it could enable the junta and its allied parties to claim legitimacy and enable regime leader Min Aung Hlaing to fulfill his presidential dream.

The United Nations, United States and National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, said any election planned by the junta would be fraudulent.

The SNDP had 108 candidates in 2020 but won only one seat.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy, SNDP chairman Sai Aik Pao told of preparations and expectations for the junta election.

Will you enter the junta election?

Of course. We registered our party to run. If not, why establish a party?

What have you prepared?

We have chosen candidates. We can’t give the names yet but we will field many more candidates than in 2020.

Are you expecting success?

PR will be different. Under FPTP, if another party gets one more vote, it wins. But now success is measured proportionately.

In the 2015 election, we only won one seat but, according to the UEC, under PR we would have won 12 seats [one in the upper house, four in the lower house and seven in the regional parliament]. So we hope to win more seats in the next election.

How are the party’s relations with people in Shan State?

They are yearning for us. We won 58 seats in the 2010 election [which was boycotted by the NLD and the other major Shan party, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy] and received six ministerial positions. We helped people a lot.

Now they are longing for what we did for them in the past and are interested in our White Tiger party.

We will help the displaced and have urged armed groups to halt the fighting and suspend the collection of extortion money. After we issued a statement, the RCSS [Restoration Council of Shan State] said it would suspend recruitment. Conditions have improved a lot since then.

What has the party been doing since 2021?

Covid meant we could only really issue statements.

What do you think of parties boycotting any junta election?

It is their decision and I won’t comment. Each party’s policies differ and they can make their own minds up.

Will you cooperate with the junta and its allies from the Union Solidarity and Development Party?

We can work with everybody, including the NLD. We want to work for prosperity, the rule of law and development.

Many have rejected the junta’s election plans as fraudulent. Why is it different for the SNDP?

[He laughs] There was criticism of the 2020 general election as well. Everyone can criticize. There will always be criticism. It is natural. Nothing will work if we let criticism stop us acting. The 2020 US election disputes are still not resolved.

How about junta claims of widespread electoral fraud in 2020?

I don’t want to comment on the past. We only think of how we can make peace, develop and become a strong ASEAN member. If we keep talking about the past we can’t move forward.

Do you know if other Shan parties will contest a junta election?

I don’t have any interest in other parties. It is a democracy and people can vote for whichever party they want. But with PR, no vote will be wasted.