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The Union Election Commission denied the Zomi National Congress entrance into the country’s political landscape after the party’s registration request was rejected over a naming row.
The party, which represents the Zomi ethnic group in Chin State, won two seats in the 1990 general elections, but the results were later annulled by ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council in 1992.
The Zomi primarily live in Tedim and Tonzang townships in Chin state. However, the government does not recognise the group as a separate ethnic nationality and classify their language as a local dialect within the country’s western state.
Union Election Commission’s deputy director Hla Maung Cho said the ZNC was unable to register because the term ‘Zomi’ is not recognised by the Burmese government.
“We notified them to change their title because [Zomi] was not included on the list of ethnic nationalities recognised by the [Immigration and National Registration Department],” said Hla Maung Cho.
ZNC leader Pu Cint Sian Thang said that government’s denial of the party’s right to mention their own ethnicity could lead to the disintegration of ethnic solidarity.
“So this implies that we are not allowed to use our own dialect. This is saddening because we just wanted to have our language in the title, but the [UEC] rejected us citing a law that can harm the unity among the ethnic nationalities,” said Pu Cint Sian Thang.
“It is not important whether we get to participate or not, but we are disappointed in having our rights violated and told that [the Zomi ethnic group] doesn’t actually exist.”
He said the party’s leaders were discussing whether the group should try to reregister under a new title.
The ZNC has been allied with the National league for Democracy for more than 20 years and boycotted the general elections in 2010. The party was prepared to register and participate in April’s by-election; however, their bid was denied by the UEC.
NLD chairman in Chin State Van Lian said the UEC’s decision was unfair.
“The ZNC, under the same name, was allowed to participate in the 1990 election in which it won two seats,” said Van Lian. “I cannot comprehend why they are being rejected now.”