NLD Expands Ethnic Affairs Committee Ahead of Myanmar Election

By San Yamin Aung 3 January 2020

YANGON—In an effort to improve its fragile relations with ethnic groups ahead of the upcoming general election, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party has expanded its recently formed Ethnic Affairs Committee to include members from each state and region in the Union.

The NLD announced the establishment of the party’s new committee at a press conference on Sept. 22 after the NLD Central Executive Committee Congress in Yangon. The committee initially included only three members: Lower House lawmaker Nhtung Hka Naw Sam from Kachin State as chairman and Karen State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint and Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu as committee members.

The NLD expanded the committee on Thursday to include 13 new members, nominated from each state and region, for a total of 15 members. Peace Commission Chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win was appointed as vice chair of the committee and replaced Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu. Karen State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint was also appointed as a vice chair.

Committee head Nhtung Hka Naw Sam said that during the NLD’s congress in September, Central Executive Committee members from states and regions suggested that the party should form a committee to focus on improving the party’s work on ethnic affairs.

The Kachin lawmaker acknowledged that declining support for the NLD in ethnic areas and the party’s failure to build healthy relationships with ethnic populations and their political parties were also among the reasons for establishing the committee.

He said that the committee will prioritize working ethnic issues and also work to promote ethnic literature, education and culture. The details of the committee’s work will be decided only after its first meeting, he added.

The party’s decision to establish the Ethnic Affairs Committee was criticized by many ethnic politicians who saw the move as a political tactic to win ethnic votes, rather than a genuine attempt to address issues of importance to the country’s ethnic communities.

At the press conference in September, NLD Vice Chairman U Zaw Myint Maung also said that establishing the committee was part of a strategy for the 2020 general election.

“We need to overcome the power of the ethnic parties, which are merging within [their respective] ethnic regions to compete in the upcoming election. We established this committee to recruit more ethnic people into our party and work on ethnic affairs,” said U Zaw Myint Maung.

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