Rakhine party splin­ters

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: EPA

A man pushes his bi­cy­cle as he leaves the Arakan Na­tional Party head­quar­ters in Sit­twe, Rakhine State.

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