2 Arakan Political Parties to Unite

By Political Parties, Zarni Mann 17 June 2013

RANGOON—Two leading political parties in west Burma’s Arakan State have agreed to unite as one party, the Arakan National Party (ANP).

The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which won 34 seats in Parliament in 2010, plans to merge with the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), a popular party which re-registered last year after being outlawed by the former military regime, party leaders announced on Monday.

“We have long been enthusiastic about uniting,” ALD deputy chief Kyaw Myint said at a press conference in Rangoon, Burma’s biggest city.

“This agreement will be remembered in history, as we abandon our mother parties and unite as one for the entire Rakhine people,” he said, referring to the Arakan ethnic minority group which is also known as Rakhine.

Officials from both parties said they planned to form a temporary committee to register the new party, the ANP, and to discuss its regulations.

“We are planning to submit the registration [application] in the first week of September,” Kyaw Myint said. “Once registered, we will abolish our mother parties. We plan to hold a party conference within seven months of being acknowledged [by the electoral commission], and we will democratically elect the party leaders and central committee members.”

The ALD formed in the late 1980s and won third place during the 1990 general elections, which were annulled by the former military government. The party was subsequently outlawed by the junta, but re-registered in 2012 under Burma’s nominally civilian government.

Along with several other leading ethnic parties, the ALD boycotted the 2010 general elections to demand the release of all political prisoners and a review of the 2008 military-backed Constitution.

“The ALD is our elder, for they have been fighting for the Rakhine people since 1988,” said RNDP president Aye Maung. “RNDP has dreamed of uniting the Rakhine people and achieving national unity. Finally, we can now realize our dream.”

Aye Maung said the new party would push to amend the 2008 Constitution and to create a federal system that many ethnic minority groups have long demanded.

“Rewriting the 2008 Constitution is vital,” he said. “It [the Constitution] is unfair, preventing ethnic parties from governing their own states with their own rules, so that nothing is different from the [former] regime. This is one reason why states such as Rakhine, Chin and Karen are underdeveloped.”

He urged other ethnic parties to unite, push for equality and promote national reconciliation.

The decision to create the ANP follows the merging of two ethnic Chin parties last month.

Earlier this month, 15 ethnic parties from around the country also announced that they would form a single party, the Federal Union Party (FUP), in preparation for upcoming polls in 2015. The RNDP was one of those parties.

When asked about plans to form the FUP at the press conference on Monday, an RNDP spokesperson said that although the RNDP and ALD wanted to merge, they would need to wait for approval from the country’s electoral commission, and approval was not guaranteed.