Another Meeting Between Myanmar’s NLD, Ethnic Party Collapses Over Venue Dispute

By San Yamin Aung 12 January 2021

YANGON—For the second time this month, a scheduled meeting between the National League for Democracy (NLD) and representatives of an ethnic political party to discuss plans for a federal union has fallen through due to a disagreement over the venue. This time the aborted meeting had been planned between the ruling party and the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP).

Since its landslide victory in November’s general election, the NLD has been sending a delegation to ethnic states to hold talks on forming a national unity government with ethnic political parties as a step towards establishing a federal union.

So far, however, only the delegation’s first such meeting—with a state-based ethnic party in Kachin State—has been held according to plan. Following that, a planned meeting with the Mon Unity Party (MUP) on Jan. 4 in Mon State was aborted, as the ruling party refused to budge on its insistence that the talks be held at its local office—a venue rejected as unacceptable by the MUP.

On Tuesday, the exact same issue befell the planned meeting with the KySDP.

The meeting between delegations of the NLD and KySDP was scheduled to be held at the NLD’s Kayah State office in Loikaw on Tuesday afternoon. The NLD delegation, which comprises three of the party’s senior leaders—Magwe Region Chief Minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Karen State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, who is also a member of the party’s Ethnic Affairs Committee, and Ntung Hka Naw Sam, the chair of the committee—arrived in Loikaw on Monday.

KySDP general secretary Khu Theh Reh said on Tuesday the party demanded to meet at a neutral venue—ruling out either the NLD or the KySDP’s offices—but the NLD did not accept the proposal, leading to the meeting being scrapped.

“Dr. Aung Moe Nyo called me this [Tuesday] morning and asked to meet at their party’s office. I told him [we want] to meet at a third location. But he said the party had made the decision that it would hold talks [with ethnic parties] at its offices. Thus, they couldn’t change the venue,” Khu Theh Reh said.

He said the KySDP proposed meeting at a neutral location as it believes such an arrangement would be more agreeable for both sides and allow them to talk more freely.

“If our proposal [to change the venue] is accepted, we are willing to hold discussions with them about politics, ethnic issues and the formation of a new government,” he said.

The KySDP was one of 34 political parties that met with military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Service’s office in Naypyitaw prior to the election. During the meeting, the parties sought assurances from the senior general that they could count on his help if the voting turned unfair. However, the KySDP later released a statement saying the decision to join the meeting with the military chief was made solely by the party’s chairman and did not have the support of the party as a whole.

Khu Theh Reh accused the NLD of adopting a superior attitude as the winning party, claiming it wanted ethnic parties to be subordinate to it and that it simply made demands instead of seeking to collaborate.

The NLD won 20 of 34 total parliamentary seats in Kayah State, including both Union and state parliament seats, while the KySDP won eight and the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party won six. However, in the state parliament, the NLD will require the support of the KySDP against the USDP and military-appointed lawmakers, as it failed to win a majority of the state legislature’s seats.

Dr. Aung Moe Nyo said the delegation couldn’t change the proposed venue as the NLD’s Central Executive Committee made the decision to hold talks at the party’s state offices before dispatching the team.

“We will go Taunggyi [in Shan State] tomorrow. As long as the central committee doesn’t direct us to change the venue, we will stick to it,” he said.

He added that the delegation traveled to Kayah State as it wanted to listen to the voices and hear the wishes of ethnic parties.

“Even in repressive times, we shared an understanding and all the allied ethnic parties met at the NLD’s office. We are not saying now to come to Yangon or Naypyitaw to meet us. We came here to listen to their voices. I want to request their understanding respectfully to meet at the [NLD’s] office,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nan Lwin Hwin Pwint

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