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The Burmese government’s Election Commission has warned leaders of two election parties against using on their flags the powerful peacock symbol previously employed by armed groups.
Aye Lwin, the head of Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP), and his brother Ye Htun, head of 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar), were summoned on 4 May to the Burmese capital Naypyidaw where government officials “told us to change our flags,” Aye Lwin said.
The symbol of the peacock, Burma’s national animal, carries a weighty history, having been used by anti-government groups from General Aung San’s Burma Independence Army to the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU).
State-run newspapers last month announced that anyone who was against the groups using the peacock should make their feelings known. About 90 students and influential figures from Burma’s literary and entertainment world then signed a letter of objection which was handed to the Election Commission on 7 May, three days after the two were summoned.
“The commission didn’t follow the regulations in the government’s Political Party Registration Laws,” said Aye Lwin. “Its consideration on our flag proposals was not based on the official laws but based on opinions and procedures outside of the law.”
“We will request that [junta chief] Than Shwe provides us with guidance. At the same time we are considering amendments to our flags and will resubmit them to the commission so we can avoid any delay on election registration.”
The two parties were the first to be accepted onto the next stage of registration for elections this year. Aye Lwin, a former student activist whose anti-government stance has softened over the years, occupies the ‘third force’ in Burmese politics, outwardly allied to neither opposition nor incumbent.
Around 30 parties have now registered for the elections. Out of the ashes of the now-disbanded opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party has emerged the National Democratic Force, the most potent opposition party competing in the polls.