Ethnic Parties Split in Two on Four-Month-Old Appointment to Six-Party Talks

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 27 April 2015

RANGOON — An ethnic political party alliance has revealed a split in its ranks in the wake of this month’s six-party talks, releasing a statement announcing that the ethnic lawmaker who attended the summit between government, opposition and military leaders did not have a mandate to represent them.

A statement released last week by the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF) said that Dr. Aye Maung, the former leader of the Arakan National Party (ANP) who attended the Apr. 10 summit on behalf of ethnic parliamentarians, did not have the confidence of all of its 21 constituent parties.

The ANP is also one of 10 members of the NBF with representation in the Union Parliament. Aye Maung was selected as ethnic representative for the talks in a first-past-the-post secret ballot last November, winning five of the 14 votes on offer.

“We released the statement because we want to make it clear that he was chosen by the parliament, not by us, because many people including ethnic leaders asked whether he got our mandate,” said Saw Than Myint, the NBF’s spokesperson. He added that Aye Maung’s presence at the talks did not represent the interests of all ethnic minorities in Burma.

Other members of the NBF who took part in last November’s ballot have not publicly disclosed their vote, earning the ire of the federation, which believes that member parties lacking parliamentary representation should have had input into the selection of an ethnic representative for the talks.

“We have no idea what members of which NBF member parties joined the voting,” said Saw Than Myint. “They haven’t reported it to us… At the time we didn’t even know the fact that the parliament was going to select an ethnic representative for the talks.”

Aye Maung was not available for comment on Monday.

Asked how the NBF would have responded if the alliance was consulted before the vote, Saw Than Myint said they were neither for nor against either Aye Maung’s appointment or the talks, but did not expect the roundtable to accomplish anything substantive.

“They couldn’t have significant effect on constitutional change,” he said. “We are more interested in all-inclusive political dialogue to make the federal system happen through peace talks.”