Pro-Democracy Activist Ko Ko Gyi: ‘I Will Set Up My Own Party’

By The Irrawaddy 7 August 2015

Prominent pro-democracy activist Ko Ko Gyi has said that he will set up his own party, though practical constraints and ultimately Burma’s Union Election Commission will likely prevent any Ko Ko Gyi-led party from competing in a general election due in three months’ time.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone, the former student activist who spent several years in prison said: “I told her [Aung San Suu Kyi] that I will set up my own party.”

Last week, Ko Ko Gyi was not on the candidate list of the Nation League for Democracy, though he and several other prominent figures had put forward their names as interested in contesting the upcoming election for Burma’s main opposition party. It is believed that some senior NLD members approached Ko Ko Gyi about submitting his name for a candidacy, but to the surprise of many, his name was omitted from the NLD’s candidate list when the party released most of its roster last weekend.

As of Thursday, media reports had suggested that the NLD and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society would issue a joint statement. It is not known why the NLD rejected Ko Ko Gyi and several other well-known activists and politicians as candidates. In addition to Ko Ko Gyi, Nyo Nyo Thin, an independent Rangon Division MP for Bahan, was not on the list, despite her having also put her name forward.

Party spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters that the NLD’s central committee was ultimately the gatekeeper when it came to parliamentary aspirants seeking the party’s blessing.

“We are choosing the most suitable MPs for the country,” he told the news agency. “Everyone have the right to apply as candidates but the committee need to choose the best people.”

The controversial decision to reject some well-known activists has created divisions within Burma’s democracy movement.

The former student leader, who spent more than 17 years in prison, told The Irrawaddy that he knows who at the top level of the NLD had made the decision to reject him. He is believed to have ambitions to contest the 2020 general election or by-election before then, since he likely will be unable to contest the coming election.

The UEC set an April 30 deadline for political party hopefuls to register to compete in the Nov. 8 election. The commission has allowed some parties to submit their applications after that date, but with the UEC currently juggling registered parties’ candidate lists ahead of an Aug. 14 deadline for those submissions, it does not appear likely that Ko Ko Gyi’s aspirations will be realized this election cycle.