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In a development certain to shake up the political arena in Rakhine State and beyond, the leader of the Arakan National Party (ANP) has submitted a letter of resignation, throwing one of Burma’s most prominent ethnic political parties into further disarray.
Tha Htun Hla, the ANP’s secretary, confirmed that a resignation letter dated 27 November and signed by party chair Aye Maung had been submitted to the party’s headquarters in Sittwe, the Rakhine State capital.
“I heard that [Aye Maung’s] son came to the party’s headquarters office to submit the resignation letter. Dr. Aye Maung did not come to the office. I can confirm that the office has received the letter,” Tha Htun Hla told DVB, adding that party officials had not made any decisions regarding the resignation letter.
“Currently, the general-secretary is away in Pyin Oo Lwin. I am now in Yangon. At this moment, I cannot say for sure what the party officials will decide regarding the letter. Only when the general-secretary and the vice chairperson meet up will we discuss more about it,” Tha Htun Hla said.
Aye Maung cited “disunity among the leaders of the party” as one of the reasons for his resignation. He also claimed that he had been subject to personal attacks by proxies of other members of the party leadership, including via social media.
“Over the course of seven years working with [ANP cadres and their forerunner political parties], instead of being ‘friends’ among the members who had shared the same beliefs and worked toward a common national goal, I am saddened to see that members have become foes, acting belligerently against each other,” the resignation letter was described as stating.
The letter further read, “I have the sole responsibility for internal divisions in the party’s headquarters, Sittwe and disunity among the [rural and urban] public. Therefore, I request that the ANP Central Executive Committee members and other members of the party allow me to resign from my position as chair of the ANP, as well as membership from the party in accordance with section 65 of the party’s regulations.”
Oo Hla Saw, an ANP lawmaker, said the dismissal of township-level party official Aung Than Wai was likely one reason that Aye Maung decided to cut ties with the ANP. Last month Aung Than Wai was caught up in allegations of embezzlement and dismissed in a vote by members of the ANP’s Central Executive Committee.
At the time of reporting, DVB was unable to reach Aye Maung for comment.
An influential figure in Rakhine State politics, Aye Maung competed in Burma’s 2015 general election but lost his race for Manaung Township constituency No. 2, a Rakhine State legislature seat, to a National League for Democracy opponent.
He made a successful comeback in the country’s April 2017 by-election, however, winning a vacated seat in the Lower House representing Ann Township.
The ANP was one of the best-performing ethnic political parties in Burma’s landmark 2015 election, but internal fissures had begun to appear even before the vote in November of that year. Since then, several party defections have laid bare a deep divide between factions of the former Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and the Arakan League for Democracy. The two parties merged in 2014 to form the ANP, but the latter was registered once again earlier this year, born largely of ANP defectors looking to reconstitute their former political vehicle.