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More than 5,000 members of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), have defected to the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) since the beginning of this year.
The defectors include 12 MPs.
According to SNLD spokesperson Sai Lek, nine SNDP MPs and more than 2,000 party members have switched sides since 30 November when the SNLD launched a tour of Shan State.
“The aim of our campaign is to launch party offices in Mongnawng (northern Shan), Wan Chin and Tangyan townships,” he told DVB. “But we are not purposefully lobbying SNDP members to defect.
“We hold public meetings to inform local residents about our policies and goals, and among the audience have been many members from other parties.”
Earlier this year, some 3,000 SNDP members from Mongton (southern Shan), Kyaukme, Mongyai, Nansang, Laihka, Mongkaung and Kehsi townships and three MPs defected to the SNLD.
Of the 12 MPs who have joined the SNLD, nine of them are in the regional parliament while the other three – representing Tangyang (eastern Shan), Mongkaung and Kehsi – have seats in the union parliament’s lower house.
Sai Win Myat Oo, a former SNDP regional MP representing Mongton, said his defection was intended as part of a concerted campaign to pressure both parties into a merger.
“I was an SNLD member back at the time of the 1990 elections, but joined the SNDP for the 2010 elections as the SNLD did not run,” he said.
“So essentially I’m switching back to my roots. My decision is based on the desire to see both parties merge and also signifies my support to the SNLD’s eight units policy.”
DVB reported in November 2013 that both parties were considering forming a coalition under one banner in time to fight the 2015 general election.
The SNLD, led by Hkun Htun Oo, came second in the 1990 elections and is closely associated with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. The party was revived following Hkun Htun Oo’s release from prison in 2012. It says it is looking to field 40 candidates in the 2015 elections.
The SNDP, also known as the White Tiger party, is headed by Chairman Sai Ai Pao. It contested the 2010 elections when it won three seats in the upper house and 18 in the lower house of parliament.