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Three Kachin political parties one step closer to merger

A meeting of representatives from Kachin political parties is held in Myitkyina on 13 January. (Photo: Kachin Political Cooperation Committee )

Three political parties staking their appeal on claims to represent the interests of the ethnic Kachin population in northern Burma are closer to a merger this week after they agreed on a rough policy platform and name for the combined political factions.

The aspirant Kachin National Congress Party would join the existing Kachin Democratic Party, Kachin State Democracy Party and Kachin National Congress. However, a formal application to the Union Election Commission (UEC) seeking the political reconfiguration will not take place until after a gathering next month, when a “Kachin people’s conference” will take input from the public, according to Aung Kham, who chairs the Kachin Democratic Party.

“Executive committee members and [other] members of the three political parties were in attendance at today’s meeting,” Aung Kham told DVB on Tuesday. “We explained our efforts and challenges during the five years from 2013-2018. Then, we discussed policies and the way forward. As for the policies related to the merger, we integrated the existing policies of the three political parties.”

The three parties met on Tuesday, and plan to hold their “Kachin people’s conference” in late March.

The Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party also joined a meeting last month with the three Kachin parties looking to join forces and said at the time that it planned to continue cooperating with the others, but was not yet ready to join the coalition’s eventual UEC bid.

Aung Kham said Tuesday that he hoped the prospective merger would win a majority of Kachin voters’ favour in Burma’s 2020 general election, allowing it to secure enough seats in the state legislature to put the party in a position to play an influential role in the formation of the next Kachin State government.

None of a handful of Kachin political parties managed to make much headway at the polls in the country’s 2015 general election, which was dominated by the National League for Democracy.

While the politics of Kachin State, like much of the rest of the country, tend to revolve around economic concerns and devolution of power in the form of more autonomy under a federal Union, Burma’s northernmost state has also been plagued by conflict between the military and ethnic armed groups. Most notably, the Kachin Independence Army and government troops have been at war since 2011, with hostilities between the two sides displacing about 100,000 people over the past six-plus years.