Mon Advocacy Group Urges Cross-Party Collaboration

By Yen Saning 29 June 2015

RANGOON — An independent advocacy organization has urged all Mon political parties preparing to contest national elections later this year to collaborate in order to maximize Mon representation in the post-poll parliament.

The group, named the ‘Independent Mon Support Group for Victory in the National Election,’ was formed in May in order to lend support to all aspiring ethnic Mon candidates. The group has 23 members including civil society representatives, political party officials, MPs and activists.

Spokesperson Min Aung Htoo said the group had sent a letter to the two main Mon parties, the Mon National Party (MNP) and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMDP), requesting that they work together ahead of the elections and avoid competing directly for the same constituencies.

The Woman’s Party (Mon) should also be included in any cross-party deliberations, the advocacy group said.

“If they want to work together, let’s say to divide constituencies, we will help them do it. If campaigning is needed, we will do it. Or if they say they don’t need us, but will still work together, that’s fine too,” Min Aung Htoo said.

The group said they will run voter awareness campaigns to provide the public with accurate information related to the election.

When asked of the importance of a strong showing by Mon parties in the election, Min Aung Htoo said that although other parties could work for the betterment of the region, only ethnic representatives could truly understand and defend ethnic cultural and linguistic rights, as well as rights granted under the constitution.

“We assume there is a need for ethnic MPs to be in the parliament to discuss federal issues and political reforms,” Min Aung Htoo said.

In a statement released in May, the group lamented that the two established Mon parties had decided to compete for the same constituencies.

“If Mon representatives are to be in competition with each other, we believe they cannot win over influential big parties as Mon voters’ ballots will be divided,” the statement said. “Mon parties should negotiate with each other… An unbiased mediating group should be involved to negotiate between the Mon parties if needed.”

On Saturday, the group organized a meeting of Mon candidates who competed in the 1990 elections and Mon MPs elected in the 2010 poll.

The Mon National Democratic Front won a handful of seats in the 1990 elections, which Burma’s then ruling junta refused to recognize.

The party did not contest the 2010 poll but reemerged as the Mon Democracy Party two years later. It was recognized as a registered party in Burma in 2013 and changed its name to the Mon National Party in March 2014.

The All Mon Region Democracy Party opted to contest the country’s last national election in 2010, winning sixteen seats across both state and union legislatures.

Following Saturday’s dialogue, Mon representatives from both sides of the political divide issued a joint statement recognizing the advocacy group’s efforts and pledging to discuss with their respective executive committee members suggestions for collaboration ahead of this year’s vote.