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The opposition National Democratic Force has announced it has split into two factions following months of acrimony amongst senior party leaders.
The party born out of Burma’s iconic National League for Democracy (NLD) had been in existence for only nine months before yesterday’s decision to break apart. One faction will now be led by deputy chairman Thein Nyunt, and the other by Khin Maung Swe, the party leader.
Relations between the two had soured following the elections last year after the NDF requested permission from the Union Election Commission to dismiss Thein Nyunt as a member. The party alleged that he had shared sensitive policy details with the media.
Thein Nyunt appears to have spearheaded the split, and has rebranded his faction as the Thingangyun NDF after the Rangoon township that he won a parliamentary seat in. His group contains five NDF members who were victorious in the November 2010 elections.
He told DVB that the new group would “work separately” to Khin Maung Swe’s but held back on more specific details, saying only that the announcement was made after fellow MPs questioned the status of the party in parliament.
The split appears to have been far from amicable, with Thein Nyunt asserting that “in no way will we get back together with them, personally, organisational-wise or politically”.
But Khin Maung Swe was more affable. He said that the splinter group “had the right to make their own choice” and wasn’t attempting to stop them.
“They are free to take part in politics and set up the party of their preference. However, they should not forget they were [elected] as representatives in the People’s Parliament under the Hkamaut [bamboo hat] flag,” Khin Maung Swe said, referring to the NDF’s symbol.
He added that his faction would “happily forgive” Thein Nyunt’s.
Following the NDF’s criticism of Thein Nyunt last year, the deputy leader responded that the party had failed to carry out a financial audit it had promised. Khin Maung Swe said at the time that he had also accused the party of using foreign funding, a practice that is illegal under Burmese law.
Thein Nyunt’s future in the party was then put to a vote, with 12 out of 15 NDF leaders deciding he should be expelled.
The NDF broke away from the NLD in May 2010 following the latter’s decision to boycott the polls. It fielded nearly 80 candidates in the 7 November vote, winning 16 seats.