NDF winner eyes ethnic harmony

A victorious opposition candidate has said he will focus on pushing for the release of political prisoners and promoting harmony with armed ethnic groups when he takes his seat in parliament early next year.

Thein Nyunt, the deputy chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF), won his Thingangyun constituency on the outskirts of Rangoon for the People’s Parliament after controversial elections last week.

“[The NDF] will stand as opposition in the parliament,” he told DVB. “We will work to release political prisoners and bring home those who are [exiled] for various reasons.

“Moreover, we will work to make peace with armed groups. So the first thing I’ll do in the parliament is to propose national reconciliation – a clean-slate general amnesty.”

Many of Burma’s ethnic border regions have hosted decades-long conflicts as armed groups there vie for autonomy from the ruling junta. An outbreak of fighting earlier this week between Burmese troops and a rebel faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) forced up to 20,000 refugees across the border into Thailand.

The NDF, which was formed of members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who disagreed with the party’s decision to boycott the 7 November elections, was the strongest opposition party running in the polls.

Official results are slowly trickling out, but the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is already sweeping the board, winning 190 of the 219 seats announced for the 330-seat Lower House, and 95 out of 107 for the 168-seat Upper House. Added to this are the 25 percent of seats already reserved for the military.

In contrast, the NDF has won only 16 seats so far. Any hope of substantial opposition leverage in the new parliament was however dashed long ago, after election laws were announced that appeared to sideline non-military voices.

The elections, Burma’s first in 20 years, continue to be dogged by accusations of fraud, particular with regards to the collecting of advance votes. But the price tag of $US1,000 per complaint for each seat means any chance of these being contested is slim.

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