Burma’s now-defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) party is to officially protest against the use of an image it claims ownership of by a splinter group running for elections this year.
The symbol of a bamboo hat, traditionally worn by farmers, became iconic among the Burmese pro-democracy movement after becoming the National League for Democracy’s campaign symbol during the 1990 elections.
But now the National Democratic Force (NDF), formed of senior NLD members who refused to adhere to the party’s boycott of elections this year, has adopted the image, much to the chagrin of their old colleagues.
The deputy chair of the NLD, Tin Oo, said that the NDF has “no connection” to the party and should use images distinct from those used by the NLD. It will send an official letter of complaint to NDF leaders today.
Tin Oo said that the seal “is very much impersonating ours… [the NDF] just added two stars to the top of the image,” adding that because the NLD exists as an organisation, whether or not a political party, then the symbol should not be mimicked.
“[Today] we will prepare a formal complaint letter and make a strong objection at the Election Commission. Impersonating is not an ethical thing,” he said.
Relations between the remaining senior NLD members and the new NDF party are said to be strained. Khin Maung Swe, who acted as spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s party before co-founding the NDF, said last week that the election boycott was “meaningless”.
There were already reported to have been fissures at the NLD’s senior level as it debated in March this year whether or not to participate in Burma’s first polls in 20 years. Its eventual decision was largely down to election laws that would have forced the party to expel Suu Kyi if it wanted to run.
But the deputy leader of the new opposition party, Thein Nyunt, argued that the bamboo hat “is a [symbol] for Burmese tradition and it represents the majority of the people”. The party’s new seal will showcase a golden hat beneath two stars on a red background, with the party name below, he added.
“Did [the NLD] ever register the symbol? If they did, we are not allowed to use it, but if they didn’t, then they are not in a position to make an objection,” Thein Nyunt said.
Rumours have been circulated by other contesting parties that voters are now confused about apparently souring relations between the old and new guard of Burmese opposition. An Italian diplomat who met with both groups earlier this week also reportedly probed them on the issue.
Additional reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw