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Shan party says NLD is neglecting ethnic minority relations

Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, speaks at an event commemorating the party’s 29th anniversary on Thursday in Rangoon. (Photo: Pyae Pyae)

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), Burma’s main ethnic Shan political party, has strongly criticised the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) for what it says is the latter’s neglect of the concerns and political representatives of ethnic minorities.

Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the SNLD, told DVB on Thursday that the relationship between the ruling party and ethnic political parties had ceased since the NLD won a majority of seats in the 2015 general election, saying the NLD had yet to meet with ethnic political parties in the post-election period.

He also said that the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), which is formed of eight ethnic political parties, had met with the NLD every month ahead of the election, but that those meetings too had stopped since the poll.

The UNA comprises parties formed before the 1990 elections, including the SNLD, which one the second largest number of seats among ethnic political parties on 8 November 2015.

The NLD had frequently invited members of the UNA to its Rangoon headquarters to discuss ethnic affairs and shared political goals such as amendment of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The end to regular meetings with ethnic political parties, and a sense that Burma’s peace process is foundering, has diminished UNA members’ trust in the NLD government, according to Khun Tun Oo.

“The NLD hasn’t yet been able to develop the ongoing peace process and also they haven’t yet been able to [successfully] negotiate with other ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement]. I think that the NLD-led government is worse than the USDP because the Thein Sein [administration] have good relations with ethnic armed groups. The NLD has made a lot of mistakes,” said Khun Tun Oo, referring to the NLD’s predecessor government, led by the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s Thein Sein.

A prominent Shan politician, Khun Tun Oo also said he believes the NLD was disappointed with the SNLD after the SNLD declined the ruling party’s offer to appoint the Shan party’s general-secretary to the newly created Union cabinet post of minister for ethnic affairs.

“We cannot accept their offer because our party has to do a lot of things with him. We haven’t a replacement. That’s why we declined the offer,” he said.

Despite an apparent fraying in relations, the SNLD invited the NLD to attend an event on Thursday marking the party’s 29th anniversary. NLD Central Executive Committee member Nyan Win attended the event, where he told reporters that the two parties remained “good friends.”

“If a good friend continues to instill the spirit of a good friend, it won’t be a problem,” he said.