Rakhine party splinters
One of the two factions making up the Arakan National Party has announced plans to secede as the most successful ethnic party following the November election succumbs to longstanding disagreements and bitter infighting.
A FATAL combination of old loyalties, competing factions and increasingly radical members wresting control of the platform has driven the country’s most successful ethnic party to the edge. One-half of the Arakan National Party, the former Arakan League for Democracy, is calling for secession, while the other side isn’t sorry to see them go.
Forged two years ago from a merger between the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) , the ANP has since struggled to maintain cohesion, especially due to the widespread perception that the RNDP acts as the upper hand.
On September 11, members of the ALD faction assembled in Yangon to discuss a separation plan.
U Myo Kyaw, a senior ALD member, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that members of his former party have felt squeezed out ever since an ANP expulsion of six senior officials in March. The oustre was a response to senior members who had rebuffed a party directive to oppose the ruling National League for Democracy after a perceived slighting in state government appointments.
In terms of policy outlooks, the two camps were not seeing eye to eye anymore, U Myo Kyaw added. Due to a lack of leadership, the Rakhine people have becomes very nationalistic and radical, with a hostile view of the international community, he said.
The ANP strongly defends the interests of the Buddhist Rakhine majority in the state, which was torn apart by communal violence in 2012, resulting in the military-backed government’s policy of segregating the stateless Muslim minority. Members of the international community engaged in Rakhine had been alarmed at the prospect of an ANP-led state government.
But the ALD members no longer want to be synonymous with acting as a belligerent opposition, much less when they have been sidelined from party decision-making.
“They [the RNDP members] never listen to our suggestions or take our opinion into account. When they make addresses for the state affairs, their attitude does not match our own,” he said. “Therefore, we have decided to secede from them and we will confirm that after our final meeting this coming month.”
U Tun Aung Kyaw, ANP secretary and a former RNDP member, said there was no point disputing the other members’ desire to leave.
“Seceding is their right and we will not object whether they secede or not,” he told The Myanmar Times.
Secession of a party faction is not strange because in the history of the country’s politics many parties have split, he added.
U Tun Aung Kyaw also appeared to suggest that if the ALD members don’t voluntarily leave, they could face expulsion.
“They [the ALD] held unofficial meetings without informing the party and did other things that violated the party’s rules and regulations,” he said.
“We offered them the chance to discuss internal party affairs at the 2017 party conference but they did not want to wait until then to try and secede from the ANP,” said U Tun Aung Kyaw. “We will not object to it, but we will protest them continuing to use the party name and flags after they have seceded.”
The ANP won 22 seats in the national parliament and became the single largest party in Rakhine’s state parliament last November, holding just short of an overall majority. The ANP was the only merger of ethnic political blocs to successfully net seats in the polls.
After Daw Aung San Suu Kyi rebuffed ANP demands to be given the position of Rakhine chief minister, the party established itself in opposition to the NLD.
A man pushes his bicycle as he leaves the Arakan National Party headquarters in Sittwe, Rakhine State.