Mon groups merge for new political party

Sept 16, 2009 (DVB), A new political party is being formed in Burma comprising members of a prominent ceasefire group and a party that won seats in the 1990 elections.

Members of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), which won five seats in 1990, have merged, although are yet to announce whether they will contest the 2010 elections.

Min Soe Linn, joint secretary of the NMDF and former political prisoner, said a 15-member committee was formed in early June this year.

"The committee contains eight members from the NMDF including myself and also young and educated former NMSP members," said Min Soe Linn.

"Rather than having about four different Mon parties we think it's better to just have one," he said, adding that they are undecided about the elections next year.

Board members of the new party include MNDF chairman Nai Tun Thein and deputy chairman Nai Ngwe Thein, who are also members of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP).

He added that the committee has no connection with those groups as it only stands as a working group to organise a future party.

"The new party, after being formed, will draw up its policies, work procedures and regulations. Then they will decide whether to enter the 2010 elections or not," he said.

"We are calling a meeting on 24 September. This is pretty much the responsibility of [the committee.]"

Elections are scheduled for March next year, although critics of Burma's ruling junta claim that the constitution guarantees continuation of military rule in the country.

The government has been embarking on a campaign in recent months to transform ceasefire groups into border patrol forces, thereby bringing them back into what it calls the 'legal fold'.

Ceasefire groups allied with the government are also being pressured to form political parties to contest the elections, although the majority have resisted.

Growing pressure from the government on ceasefire groups sparked heavy fighting in northeastern Burma's Shan state last month, between government troops and an ethnic Kokang ceasefire group.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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