Following the resignations of three Arakan National Party (ANP) lawmakers in as many days, the trio intend to join the rival, resuscitated Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), according to the ALD’s general secretary.
Myo Kyaw, the ALD general secretary, told DVB that these lawmakers would join the ALD because they are former members of the party, in what appears to be further indication of a deep and growing rift within the ANP.
It is a split that has largely been defined by previous affiliations to the ALD and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party. The two ethnic Arakanese political parties merged to form the ANP in 2014, but the ALD was re-registered earlier this year amid the apparent RNDP-ALD factionalisation.
“We [ALD] intended to merge with RNDP for the sake of national reconciliation. Since then, the ALD members have been oppressed by RNDP members. Aye Thar Aung was also oppressed by them because they didn’t give him a top seat on the party’s Central Executive Committee,” Myo Kyaw said.
The three sitting MPs who have submitted resignation letters this week were also members of the ANP’s central committee.
The defections came in quick succession — Khin Maung Htay on Monday, Than Maung Oo on Tuesday and the latest, Kyaw Lwin, on Wednesday. All three served constituencies in the Arakan State legislature.
Htu May, an Upper House lawmaker formerly representing the ANP, resigned from the party in July, citing “differences of opinion over party policies and other disagreements.”
In the latest resignation letters, there is no mention of the specific reasons for the MPs’ departures from the party.
The ANP won 23 seats in the state assembly in Burma’s 2015 general election, a strong showing that put the party just shy of a majority when unelected military MPs are taken into account.
In the Union Parliament, it is Aye Thar Aung who has most prominently represented the ANP, as deputy speaker of the Upper House. He also has long-standing ties to the ALD, which was formed to contest Burma’s 1990 election.
“I cannot say about Aye Thar Aung [regarding whether he will leave the ANP]. He is one of the founders of the ALD,” said Myo Kyaw, adding that it was up to the deputy speaker to decide where his partisan affiliation would ultimately lie.
Since the 2014 merger, members of the two Arakanese factions have struggled to mesh, with the RNDP alumni perceived by their ALD counterparts as having the upper hand in internal ANP politics.
The push to break away and re-establish the ALD was consummated earlier this year, when the Union Election Commission officially agreed to let the party re-register. Myo Kyaw told DVB that since then, “hundreds” of ANP members had defected from that party to join the ALD.