CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Delegates to the Mon Political Conference have agreed to set up a political party representing all ethnic Mon. To facilitate this, a 21-member party-organizing committee has been established to draft the new party’s constitution.
The Mon Political Conference was held in Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon State, on Jan. 13-14, and attended by more than 800 participants including politicians, monks, legal experts, civil society representatives, youth and women-rights activists.
Members of two existing Mon parties based in the state, the Mon National Party (MNP) and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMDP), did not participate in the weekend conference.
Mi Sandar Nan, a coordinator on the party-organizing committee’s information subcommittee, told The Irrawaddy that all parties in Mon State are welcome to join the new party, adding that the decision was up to them.
There are currently three Mon political parties: the AMDP, MNP and the Women Party (Mon), registered in 2010, 2012 and 2015 respectively.
“We invite all three parties to coordinate and will give them three months to consider joining us,” said Mi Sandar Nan, a former MNP executive committee member.
Women’s rights activist Mi Cherry Soe, who serves as secretary of the party-organizing committee, said a strong Mon political party is needed to secure more seats in the Parliament and ensure a strong voice for the Mon.
“We have been talking merging into one Mon party for a long time and we have seen that there are fewer Mon national representatives, especially after the 2015 elections,” she told The Irrawaddy. “We all have to work in unison because only a Mon party will be devoted to working on behalf of our ethnicity.”
According to a statement released after the Mon Political Conference, a negotiating team had attempted to achieve a merger between the Mon political parties for 17 months, with no success. It had sought the views of the Mon community, which called for the holding of a Mon political conference to resolve the issue.
For seven years, the Mon community has been urging the merger of Mon political parties in order to get more local lawmakers elected.
The party merger was pushed again before the 2015 general election as a way of securing more seats in the Mon State parliament, but that goal was not met. Last year, dozens of members of both political parties resigned, due in part to the parties’ failure to merge.
The Mon parties have not yet agreed to combine “due to policy differences since their formation,” although both parties adhere to a parliamentary-based political program, said U Min Min Nwe, a Mon political observer and editor of the Than Lwin Times journal based in Mawlamyine.
The MNP, which was reformed from the Mon National Democratic Front, seeks to redraft the national Constitution, while the AMDP is more in favor of amending the 2008 military-backed charter.
U Min Min Nwe told The Irrawaddy that the most recent drive is different as it involves the participation of youth and women representatives, as well as lawyers and the politicians.
A previous effort at a party merger was spearheaded by the New Mon State Party, an armed group currently in talks to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government. This time the NMSP only sent observers to the weekend conference, however, according to organizers.
“The 21-member party-organizing committee will consult with the existing parties and draft a party policy and party constitution, with input from experts and experienced politicians. We believe it has potential to be successful,” said the observer.