(Irrawaddy) Burma’s Election Commission (EC) on Friday approved three applications to register as political parties: the Wunthanu NLD (the Union of Myanmar); the Pa-O National Organization (PNO);
and the Taaung (Palaung) National Party.
A total of five parties’ registrations have now been approved for this year’s scheduled general election. On Thursday, the EC announced that it had accepted the applications of two political parties: the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP); and the 88 Generation Students Union of Myanmar.
The five approved parties are all affiliated with or known to be sympathetic to the military junta, leading observers to suggest that pro-junta parties are receiving preferential treatment by the EC.
“It is obvious that these parties support the regime. As for the ethnic parties that were approved, it is clear that were allowed to register because they are small and insignificant,” said Aye Thar Aung from the Arakan League for Democracy, which has announced it will not compete in the election.
Rangoon-based veteran politician Chan Htun said, “I think more parties will form in accordance with the regulations set up by the regime, which probably believes that the more political parties appear on the ballot, the more support its election will gain.”
The Wunthanu NLD (the Union of Myanmar) was founded by former members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) who resigned from the pro-democracy party in Mandalay Division. Its party headquarters will be based in Pathein Gyi Township in Mandalay.
Ye Min, the current head of the Wunthanu NLD (the Union of Myanmar), said the party mainly plans to contest seats in Mandalay Division. As yet, the party has not announced its leadership nor revealed its party flag. Ye Min said that five executive members had been overseeing the party in rotation.
“We will soon select our party leadership and form a executive committee,” said Ye Min. “Then we will submit the list to the EC and begin organizing activities once we have been approved.”
Aye Lwin, the head of the UMFNP, is believed to have established a close relationship with the military authorities. He reportedly met recently with Burma’s chief of police and Rangoon mayor Brig-Gen Aung Thein Lin. His brother, Ye Htun, also chairs an approved party—the 88 Generation Students Union of Myanmar.
Although Ye Htun’s party is named after the 88 generation students group, it appears to have few connections with the prominent 88 Generation Students group leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, who are currently in prison serving 65-year sentences for their roles as political dissidents.
The PNO is led by Aung Kham Hti. It signed a cease-fire agreement with the regime in April 1991 and joined the National Convention in 1993.
The PNO was allocated control over a region in southern Shan State following its cease-fire pact. The junta also fast-tracked business permits for leaders of the PNO, allowing them to establish a major gem and jewelry company named Jade Dragon.
The PNO has been excavating gemstones and gold in Shan and Kachin states and in Sagaing Division in recent years. In late 2000, it donated a jade dyke weighing 3,000 tons to the regime.
Meanwhile, state-run newspapers have announced that another ethnic party, the Lahu National Development Party (LNDP), which competed in the 1990 election, has submitted an application to the EC for party registration along with three new ethnic-based parties. Out of 10 preexisting political parties, the LNDP is the fourth that has re-registered at the EC.
To date, 23 parties have applied for party registration.