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Two major political parties in Shan State, eastern Burma, have reached a preliminary merger agreement.
Delegations from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and the Shan Nationalities Development Party (SNDP) met in state capital Taunggyi on 3 May to discuss the terms.
“Five representatives from each party met to discuss the proposal and reached a principal agreement for the merger and cooperation in all sectors,” said Sai Saw Aung, deputy-chairman of the SNLD.
He stressed that the agreement was not yet final and the delegations will continue to meet in the coming months to work out further details.
Sai Maung Tin, a lower house parliamentarian representing the SNDP, told DVB that the two parties still have some differences in policy, so the negotiations could take some time.
“We are seeing a merger on the horizon – both parties have principally agreed on the plan – but implementation will have to be done step by step,” he said. “We still need to negotiate on policy, mainly on the structure of the Union — whether we will support an eight-unit or a 14-unit federal union.”
One of the key differences between the two parties is their disparate policies on the proposed structure of the Union. The SNLD advocates for an eight-region administrative structure, while the SNDP wants to maintain the current 14 states and divisions.
Upon reaching a merger agreement, the two parties will be officially disbanded and will register with the Elections Commission as a new party.
The merger has been highly anticipated by both the ethnic Shan public and the state’s politicians. In March this year, three regional SNDP parliament representatives resigned from the party, demanding that the two parties become one.
Those present at Saturday’s meeting were optimistic that an agreement would be reached soon, so that the new unified party could register in time to contest the 2015 elections.