Myanmar Junta Bid to Draw in Ethnic Parties Met With Chilly Response

2021-02-08
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Myanmar Junta Bid to Draw in Ethnic Parties Met With Chilly Response Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (C, back) presides over a meeting of the State Administrative Council in Naypyidaw, Feb. 8, 2021.
Myawaddy TV video screenshot

Political parties in Myanmar are largely refusing to take up roles in the military junta’s State Administrative Council government, rejecting the regime’s effort to draw in civilian and ethnic minority parties a week after it deposed democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials in a nonviolent coup.

The State Administrative Council (SAC) was formed a day after the Feb. 1 coup in which the country’s powerful military grabbed power from the civilian-led National League for Democracy government, and detained leaders, lawmakers, and state and regional chief ministers.

The military, called the Tatmadaw in Burmese, justified the takeover with the unsubstantiated claim that the landslide victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in Nov. 8 elections was fraudulent. Outside observers judged the elections to be free and fair, and the country’s electoral body rejected the fraud claims.

The 15-member SAC, headed by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, is trying to broaden its base amid growing street protests across the country of 54 million people by inviting leaders of ethnic political parties that hold seats in border states. Many are also opponents of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

Parties allied with the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have accepted offers to be part of the junta government, but a range of other parties have turned down the offers to join Min Aung Hlaing’s government.

M Kawn La, chairman of the Kachin National Congress Party, said his party’s main goal is to get a mandate from the people, not simply to obtain power through the military government.

“We can do politics only with the people’s mandate,” he said. “Otherwise, we will become opportunists. That is why we made this decision [not to join the junta government].”

Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, second vice chairman of the Kachin State People’s Party, said his party can work for a future federal union only if the military or democratic forces hold trilateral talks with all ethnic groups, not just select parties.

“Otherwise, if things go on like this, we will never get any tangible results,” he said. “That’s why the best thing is to have a dialogue when talking about the future.”

Sai Nyunt Lwin, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said the junta offered the party one position, but the SNLD turned it down.

“We didn’t accept it because we are not yet ready,” he said. “It has to be something agreed to by all.”

Ye Naing Aung, general secretary of the People’s Party, a political party set up in 2018 by members of the 88 Generation activist group that grew out of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, also said that party members decided not to accept any positions from the military government, but did not elaborate.

The Kachin National Party, the Asho Chin National Party, and the Chin National League for Democracy have also made statements or told reporters they would refuse to accept any offers for positions with the SAC.

One ethnic party, the Mon Unity Party, has agreed to take a seat on the SAC, assigning Banya Aung Myo, an elected lawmaker, to the position, party officials said.

“In the past, we all have taken the confrontational route, and along the way many people as well as students and monks shed a lot of blood, [while] many others sacrificed their lives,” said party secretary Nai Letama.

“Based on that experience, we now want to avoid a confrontational way that could lead to bloodshed, so we’ve decided to accept the offer hoping to find a solution through cooperation.”

Reported by RFA’s Myamar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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