Key Mon political party to meet with general as pressure mounts to join election

Fri 27 Mar 2009, Mon Son, Blai Mon
The key decision making body of the primary political party representing Mon people has agreed to meet with the SPDC general charged with organizing Burma’s ethnic armed groups for the coming 2010 election. The plan for talks follow a quiet meeting between the groups following the Mon party’s announced refusal to join the election.

According to sources close to the New Mon State Party (NMSP), Central Executive Committee (CEC) and Central Committee (CC) members have decided to meet with Lieutenant General Ye Myint. The decision, which has not been officially announced, was made in a regularly scheduled 5-day CEC and CC meeting that finished yesterday at the party’s Central Headquarters in Ye Township, Mon State.

The decision follows a quiet meeting between the Lt. General and party higher-ups. In the first week of March, NMSP Chairman Nai Htaw Mon, party Vice Chairman Nai Rotsa and CEC member Nai Tala Nyi met with Lt. Gen. Ye Myint at the Southeast Command headquarters in Moulmein. According to sources with inside knowledge of the meeting, Lt. Gen. Ye Myint urged the NMSP leaders to bring the party into the election and requested a meeting with the entire body of the party’s upper leadership.
“Now this NMSP meeting [that finished yesterday] made the decision to accept Ye Myint’s request that all CC members hold talks with him,” said a source close to the CC. “They are planning to meet Ye Myint within 1 or 2 months.”

Lt. Gen. Ye Myint is chief of Military Affairs Security, the successor agency to the now-shuttered Military Intelligence following the purge its chief, Khin Nyunt. Khin Nyunt was responsible for brokering ceasefires with over a dozen ethnic armed groups, including the NMSP in 1995. The status of Burma’s armed groups is a delicate question for Burma’s central government, which must resolve their ambiguous armed-but-not-engaged position as it attempts to complete its seven-step “road map” to “disciplined democracy.”

Lt. Gen. Ye Myint has also met with large ethnic armed groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kachin Independence Organization. Thus far, Burma’s largest ethnic armed groups have appeared to withstand mounting pressure encouraging them to participate in the 2010 elections. In January, the UWSA went so far as to force a delegation lead by Lt. Gen. Ye Myint to disarm before allowing them to enter the group’s territory.

Following its Party Congress in January, the NMSP announced that it would not participate in the 2010 elections unless Burma’s new constitution were reviewed. According to the NMSP, the constitution provides insufficient protection for ethnic minorities and is too difficult to amend. This position is shared by the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), the other most respected party representing Mon people. The MNDF won 5 seats in Burma’s 1990 elections, which were later annulled.

Veteran party watches say that they do not think the NMSP is likely to change its position and enter into the election. Speaking of a closely related issue, they also doubt that the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the party’s military wing, will give up the weapons it has been able to retain as terms of the 1995 ceasefire.

“Ye Myint wants to meet CC members before the election,” a retired member told IMNA. “But… the NMSP will not participate in the coming election and the MNLA will not be brought under the Burmese army. The coming election is not like the 1990 election – this coming election is following the drafting of a new constitution. But for the 1990 election, they held the election before making the constitution.”

A respected Mon politician inside Mon State agreed, but raised questions about once and former members registering as candidates. “The New Mon State Party will stand confidently on their policy. They will not exchange their guns for participating in the election,” said the politician. “We could not say certainly if they will prepare for the election. Some parts of the party will participate, some parts will not participate – I think they have some policy because some of their members retired from the party after the Congress.”

Preparations for the 2010 election, thought to be scheduled for March, have remained relatively quiet in the Mon community; though rumors are spreading, there have yet to be any major announcements by groups planning to join the process.

In an interview earlier this month, however, NMSP party spokesman Nai Ong Mange told IMNA that the party understands the importance of Mon community members joining in the election. “If a 3rd party appears… the NMSP will not bother this party. They can do what they want to do. If the people and monks support them, it is good and they have a right to participate,” said Nai Ong Mange.

“If an NMSP member wants to form a political party, they can go – it is their choice,” he continued. “But the NMSP will not back these members. We will not support them and we will not bother them. But they will have to leave the party – they cannot use the NMSP name.”

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