Shan party eyes return to politics

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy has announced it will re-register as a party by next week, marking its official return to politics following a refusal to compete in the 2010 elections.

The group that came second in the 1990 elections in Burma will not compete in the looming by-elections, however. Sai Lek, spokesperson of the SNLD, said that there was not enough time to complete the application prior to the 1 April vote, but that it would provide support for the democratic parties participating.

“We are registering because we have no other choice – under the circumstances, only [parties] that register officially can take part in politics.”

The party’s leader, Khun Htun Oo, was released early in January from a 93-year prison sentence, having been sentenced in 2005 on charges of treason. He spent much of the term in the remote Putao prison in far-northern Burma.

Other senior Shan  figures, including General Hso Ten, head of the Shan State Army-North, who was freed last year from a 106-year sentence, recently met to discuss the political landscape in Burma following a series of reforms enacted by the Thein Sein administration. Sai Lek said that the prospect of cooperating with other Shan ethnic parties, such as the Shan National Democratic Force, which already holds seats in parliament, was broached, as was the issue of bringing peace to a region scarred by decades of civil war.

Harn Yawnghwe from the Euro-Burma Office, who helped to mediate in the ceasefire between the rebel Shan State Army and the Burmese government, was also present at the meeting, although it is not clear whether he will play a role in the reinvigorated party.

Campaigning for the April vote is well underway, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party also boycotted the 2010 polls, attracting tens of thousands of supporters as she tours the country.

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