Election Commission to Question Mon Party Over Joint Statement With Rebels

By Lawi Weng 6 April 2015

RANGOON — The Union Election Commission has called on the Mon National Party to explain why it issued a joint statement last month with the New Mon State Party (NMSP), an ethnic rebel group that has waged an armed struggle against the central government.

The election commission’s branch in the Mon State capital Moulmein sent a letter to the Mon National Party on Friday ordering three party leaders to its Moulmein office for discussions on the issue.

“We would like to discuss the case of [Mon National Party] issuing a joint statement with the NMSP while [the latter] is having peace negotiations with the UWPC [Union Peacemaking Working Committee],” the letter said, without explaining whether the commission was considering taking measures against Mon National Party.

In February, the commission issued a similar letter to the Mon National Party after it joined the NMSP in endorsing the students’ call for Education Law reform.

The party’s joint secretary Nai Soe Myint said, “I and two other members from our party will go to talk tomorrow with the UEC. They told us in their statement that they did not like us to issue a joint statement with the NMSP.”

He defended his party’s decision to issue a statement on March 12, together with the NMSP, to condemn the brutal police crackdown on a student protest at Letpadan, Pegu Division, which saw security forces beat and detain dozens of protestors.

The organizations said they supported the students’ call for education reform, which included a demand to allow primary schools to teach students in their native ethnic language.

“We need to work together with the NMSP as they are also Mon. We both are working together for the Mon people. There should be no problem as the NMSP is also a Mon party,” said Nai Soe Myint.

Nai Kyi Win, another party leader, said he believed the election commission did not want to see the two Mon organizations unite. “There should be no problem with our two parties working together because the NMSP signed a ceasefire agreement,” he added.

The NMSP is the main ethnic armed group in Mon State and has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades until it signed a bilateral ceasefire with President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government in 2012.

The NMSP is not a registered political party and as an armed group it participates in the nationwide ceasefire process.

The Mon National Party is a long-established political party from Mon State, but was only recognized as a registered party in Burma in 2013. Most of the party’s leadership spent stints in prison as prisoners of conscience in the 1990s on accusations of supporting the armed struggle of the NMSP.

Under the previous military government, ethnic political parties struggled to find a balance between gaining political recognition from the government and maintaining ties with its ethnic popular base and ethnic armed groups.

The colonial-era, draconian Unlawful Associations Act was often used to lock up ethnic politicians accused of liaising with rebel groups.