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The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) has been fighting for democracy and the rights of the Shan people for nearly 30 years. In the 1990 elections, it won the second largest number of seats after the National League for Democracy (NLD) but was unable to serve in parliament because the then ruling junta refused to recognise the poll results.
Like the NLD, the SNLD boycotted the 2010 elections but contested last year, winning three seats in the upper house, 12 in the lower house and 26 in the parliaments of Shan and Kachin states. Ahead of that historic event, the SNLD’s leader Htun Htun Oo spoke of his party’s “comradeship” with the NLD.
Speaking to DVB recently, SNLD spokesperson Sai Lek discussed his party’s political priorities and the possibility of receiving a ministerial post in the NLD government that will assume power on April 1.
Q: The NLD is going to announce their list of new government officials in a few days. We learned that the NLD has also offered the SNLD a government minister position. Can you tell us who in the SNLD was approached and for which ministerial position?
A: I don’t know exactly. About two months ago Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the SNLD should take part in both the union and regional government but we still haven’t made a decision.
Q: It’s drawing close. Why haven’t you decided yet?
A: We have no specific answer for this. All we can say is that the alliance between the NLD and SNLD is as strong as ever.
Q: Majority of the Shan people wish for the SNLD to take part in the NLD-led government. What is this?
A: Our ultimate aim to bring about internal peace and amend the constitution. If the NLD government’s procedures can promise benefits for the Shan people then we will have something to work with. We have no time to spare if their plans are irrelevant to our cause. We believe the people will understand our stance.
Q: Do you know if any member parties in the United Nationalities Alliance were offered a role in the NLD government?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t heard if the NLD has approached the UNA.
Q: What would you like to say about the heads of state appointed by the parliament on Tuesday?
A: We support their decision to appoint an honest and talented individual like U Htin Kyaw. We think it is the right thing to do, choosing him as the president.
Q: How about the vice-presidents?
A: We have nothing new to add to what has already been reported on by the media.
Q: Do you think the new government will be able to resolve the various ethnic issues?
A: We will know the answer when the government begins working with the different ethnic groups. We must also wait and see how enthusiastically the army will respond and follow their path to reconciliation and if they will co-operate with the NLD government.
While the parliament was appointing the new president, clashes were continuing in northern Shan State. A peace deal and national reconciliation sound like a stretch. But if all the people, ethnic nationalities, get on board with the talks, then the military who represent the people may change their attitude. So we think it’s up to the military whether they will change their stance or not. This will be the deciding factor in determining if the national reconciliation will be successful.