Anti-NLD Ethnic Politicians Picked by Military Regime for Governing Council

By Nyein Nyein 5 February 2021

Three ethnic politicians from parties politically opposed to the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government toppled by the armed forces on Monday have been appointed to the military regime’s governing body, the State Administrative Council (SAC).

The move came two days after the military (or Tatmadaw) staged a coup and arrested President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The SAC, which was formed a day after the military takeover with coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as chairman, has a total of 16 members so far.

One of the new SAC members is Daw Aye Nu Sein, a lawyer-cum-politician and the spokesperson for the Arakan National Party (ANP). As one of the ANP’s policy board members, she was a critic of both the ousted NLD government and the military regarding civilian casualties and the treatment of civilians arrested by the Tatmadaw in Rakhine State over the past few years.

Fierce fighting between the military (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State between November 2018 and November 2020 left more than 200,000 civilians displaced. The two sides agreed to a pause in the fighting after the Nov. 8 polls.

As recently as last week, Daw Aye Nu Sein urged the military to put the people’s interests and the country’s image first after a Tatmadaw spokesman refused to rule out a coup over the military’s claims of election fraud.

“It is an unwanted comment [on the possibility of staging a coup]. This kind of threat should not be raised … because the military is already entitled to a share of administrative power under the Constitution,” she said during a political talk show hosted by the Democratic Voice of Burma last Friday.

The Irrawaddy could not reach Daw Aye Nu Sein for comment on her decision to participate in the SAC and the fact that it is led by the military, an institution she has frequently criticized.

The ANP said in a statement on Thursday that it would cooperate with the military regime as necessary “for Rakhine’s national interest”. The party avoided direct references to a military takeover of power on Monday, and merely criticized the NLD and the military for failing to settle their political disputes, which “led to the military’s declaration of a state of emergency that we don’t want.”

Many ethnic Rakhine netizens have criticized the ANP’s collaboration with the military.

Daw Aye Nu Sein at the Naypyitaw peace conference in 2018. / The Irrawaddy

“You do not denounce the military coup, but use Rakhine state to assert your authority and kneel down before the army. Shame on you!” read one comment under an ANP Facebook post.

Others commented that the party was putting pride first, after feeling ignored by the NLD while it was in charge of the country. Relations between the two parties soured after the NLD took power five years ago and declined to appoint an ANP member as the Rakhine State chief minister.

ANP secretary U Tun Aung Kyaw, who won an Upper House seat in last year’s election, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that, “We were ignored by the ruling party [the NLD] for the past five years [from 2015 to 2020], and they never invited us to hold negotiations.”

He blamed the NLD for the Union Election Commission’s decision to cancel voting for security reasons a week before the Nov. 8 polls in nine Rakhine State townships affected by the armed conflict, and its failure to re-run the election in the affected areas before Jan. 31, the last day of the parliamentary session. Rakhine politicians insisted that “rescheduled voting” in those areas be held before the start of the new Parliament session on Feb. 1, while the existing law only allows for by-elections to be held within a year of the polls.

“Our state has many problems to solve, including the issues of internally displaced people and the hundreds of civilians arrested under the terrorism act. We strongly believe the ANP has a duty to resolve these issues and we will accept any collaboration to help the people,” he said.

Another new SAC appointee, Saw Daniel, was until Thursday the vice chairman of the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP), a rival of the NLD in the state.

However, on Thursday, the KySDP said in a statement that it had dismissed Saw Daniel as vice chairman for his participation in the military-led SAC. The party said his decision to join the council was made independently, adding that he is no longer affiliated with the party.

The KySDP condemned the military takeover and called on the immediate release of all detained politicians and for the election results to be respected.

Also appointed to the SAC was Sai Lone Hseng, a former Shan State speaker representing the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the NLD’s main rival and the military’s proxy party.

Two other ethnic people appointed to the SAC earlier are Jeng Phang Naw Taung and U Moung Har, the former manager of Myanmar Economic Bank.

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