Thein Sein Meets Minority Party Leaders

By Nyein Nyein 18 July 2012

Twelve leaders of ten Democratic and Ethnic Alliance parties met Burmese President Thein Sein for the first time in the capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday.

The representatives, who all contested in the 2010 general election, discussed a wide range of issues including the rule of law and peace building in Burma as well as mooted changes to the electoral system for the next popular ballot in 2015.

Suggestions included issuing bylaws to manage the scope of enacted laws and organizing a peace conference involving all ethnic and civil society groups, participants told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“Despite being enacted, some laws cannot be practiced due to the lack of bylaws,” said Aung Than, the chairman of the Democracy and Peace Party (DPP).

“We also highlighted judicial matters such as mutual respect among lawyers and judges during court proceedings, as well as to reform the Bar Council for legal representation as was previously the case.”

Minority leaders also discussed the inclusion of ethnic languages and literature in the school curriculum as well as possible solutions to the current communal conflict in Burma’s western Arakan (Rakhine) State.

Nai Hla Aung, a representative of the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), proposed that the ethnic Mon language be taught at schools in Mon State.

Aung Min, Railway Minister and Naypyidaw’s chief peace negotiator with ethnic armed groups, was also at the meeting and apparently said that the government will allow teaching the Mon language and will provide US $1 million to fund it.

“[Aung Min] told us that the teaching time would be out of school hours. I am not satisfied with this as our party proposed allowing teaching in the government’s school time,” said Banyar Aung Moe, an Upper House MP for the AMDP, who participated in the meeting.

Khin Maung Swe, the leader of the National Democratic Front (NDF), told The Irrawaddy that his party made several suggestions related to national development.

These included making electricity accessible in more than 60,000 villages and revising national projects such as building railways as well as the controversial Shwe Gas pipeline from China’s Yunnan Province to Arakan State’s Kyauk Phyu Township.

Participants said they were well received by Thein Sein who welcomed collaboration with the parties and promised to implement their suggestions, but he confessed some could come into effect immediately while others may take a long time.

Industry Minister Soe Thein was also at the meeting and previously met the minority party leaders with Aung Min in Rangoon on July 8. More meetings are due to take place in the future although no specific dates have been set so far.

The Democratic and Ethnic Alliance—comprised of the NDF, DPP, Democratic Party (Myanmar), Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, Chin National Party, Phalon-Sawal Democratic Party, AMDP, Union Democracy Party, and Union and Peace Party—was formed before the 2010 general election. The six ethnic parties in the alliance also separately formed the Parties of Democratic Friends group.