Current News

2 Arakan Political Parties to Unite

Members of
the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and the Arakan League for
Democracy (ALD) hold a press conference on Monday in Rangoon, announcing a
decision to merge the two parties. (Photo: Zarni Mann / The Irrawaddy)
By ZARNI
MANN
July 1, 2013
RANGOON—Two
leading political parties in west Burma’s Arakan State have agreed to unite as
one party, the Arakan National Party (ANP).
  
The Rakhine
Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which won 34 seats in Parliament in 2010,
plans to merge with the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), a popular party
which re-registered last year after being outlawed by the former military
regime, party leaders announced on Monday.
 
“We have
long been enthusiastic about uniting,” ALD deputy chief Kyaw Myint said at a
press conference in Rangoon, Burma’s biggest city.
 
“This
agreement will be remembered in history, as we abandon our mother parties and
unite as one for the entire Rakhine people,” he said, referring to the Arakan
ethnic minority group which is also known as Rakhine.
  
Officials
from both parties said they planned to form a temporary committee to register
the new party, the ANP, and to discuss its regulations.
  
“We are
planning to submit the registration [application] in the first week of
September,” Kyaw Myint said. “Once registered, we will abolish our mother
parties. We plan to hold a party conference within seven months of being
acknowledged [by the electoral commission], and we will democratically elect
the party leaders and central committee members.”
The ALD
formed in the late 1980s and won third place during the 1990 general elections,
which were annulled by the former military government. The party was
subsequently outlawed by the junta, but re-registered in 2012 under Burma’s
nominally civilian government.
 
Along with
several other leading ethnic parties, the ALD boycotted the 2010 general
elections to demand the release of all political prisoners and a review of the
2008 military-backed Constitution.
 
“The ALD is
our elder, for they have been fighting for the Rakhine people since 1988,” said
RNDP president Aye Maung. “RNDP has dreamed of uniting the Rakhine people and
achieving national unity. Finally, we can now realize our dream.”
Aye Maung
said the new party would push to amend the 2008 Constitution and to create a
federal system that many ethnic minority groups have long demanded.
 
“Rewriting
the 2008 Constitution is vital,” he said. “It [the Constitution] is unfair,
preventing ethnic parties from governing their own states with their own rules,
so that nothing is different from the [former] regime. This is one reason why
states such as Rakhine, Chin and Karen are underdeveloped.”
 
He urged
other ethnic parties to unite, push for equality and promote national
reconciliation.
 
The decision
to create the ANP follows the merging of two ethnic Chin parties last month.
Earlier this
month, 15 ethnic parties from around the country also announced that they would
form a single party, the Federal Union Party (FUP), in preparation for upcoming
polls in 2015. The RNDP was one of those parties.
 
When asked
about plans to form the FUP at the press conference on Monday, an RNDP
spokesperson said that although the RNDP and ALD wanted to merge, they would
need to wait for approval from the country’s electoral commission, and approval
was not guaranteed.