Mon Ethnic Party: Myanmar Gov’t, Military Lack Political Will for Federalism, Equality

By Lawi Weng 8 January 2020

The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has said that the National League for Democracy (NLD) government and the Myanmar army do not have the political will necessary to let ethnic groups in the country build a federal system.

The NMSP issued a statement Wednesday after the party held its 10th congress, a two-week meeting at its headquarters in Bee Re, Ye Township, Mon State, during which the group analyzed the political situation in Myanmar and the rights of ethnic groups.

“There are barriers to working to build a federal system and we have found that the government and the army do not have the political will needed for our ethnic groups to build a federal system,” the statement said.

The statement said that though the NLD government has been in power for four years, the party still has not been able to make peace in the country or even amend the 2008 Constitution.

The NMSP has signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and worked with the government to build peace in the country. Before the NLD assumed control of the government, the party acted as an ally to ethnic political parties in the country. The NMSP trusted that they could work with the NLD government on the issue of federalism.

But the relationship between the NMSP and the NLD has grown tense. The NLD blocked a move to amend Article 261 of the Constitution, which would have allowed ethnic states to elect their own chief ministers. The NLD also supported the building of a statue of Burmese ethnic hero General Aung San in Mudon and named a new bridge in Mawlamyine after the general. The NMSP said actions like these show that the NLD does not have political will to give ethnic groups a federalist system.

“If they would like to give us a federalist system, they should let ethnic groups elect ethnic chief ministers. They should cooperate with ethnic groups to amend [Article 261], but they block it. Therefore, we made the point at the [NMSP] congress about how the NLD does not have political will for building federalism,” said Nai Kao Rot, former colonel from the NMSP, who joined the congress as an observer.

“We have been watching [the NLD’s] actions for five years. Their idea is to have democracy first, then they will have federalism. Without having federalism first, we cannot have democracy for our ethnic groups,” said Nai Kao Rot.

The congress concluded that the current government has returned to the system of Burmanization, in which past governments tried to influence and control ethnic groups under ethnic Burmese regimes.

During the two-week congress, former party chair Nai Htaw Mon resigned and Nai Hong Sar became the new chair for the party. General Nai Bayar Ma San was appointed army chief for the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the armed wing of the NMSP.

The NMSP statement also said that party leaders would negotiate with the Myanmar military to ensure the return of an MNLA outpost in Three Pagodas Pass Township taken after the two sides clashed on Nov. 27, 2019.

The statement added that armed conflict can only be solved through political dialogue and that there are many political challenges for the party but they will cooperate with the ethnic Mon people, including Buddhist monks, in order to fight for self-determination and equal rights for their ethnic group.

Meanwhile, a representative from the NMSP attended the Joint-Ceasefire Implementation Coordination Meeting between the government and leaders from 10 ethnic armed groups on Wednesday in Naypyitaw, where they discussed ways to advance the peace process.