Locals in Taungup, Arakan State, staged a protest on Sunday to voice their displeasure at the factionalism that has beset one of the country’s strongest ethnic political parties as members of the Arakan National Party continue to weigh whether to formally split the party in two.
About 130 Taungup residents gathered in front of City Hall over the weekend as members of the Arakan League for Democracy faction of the ANP were holding a meeting.
Former political prisoner Maung Maung Thet, one of the demonstrators, told DVB that the protest was aimed at avoiding a situation in which Arakanese nationalists “don’t know who our father is.”
“Firstly, we don’t agree on separation from the party. Secondly, we are against the ALD faction that came to Taungup to make a bigger separation,” he said.
“In Arakan [State], the two parties joined into one at the people’s request. We don’t want to see another new party. We will have difficulties choosing a party. We don’t want to get into a situation where we don’t know who our father is.”
ANP leaders should discuss among the different factions to forge a united front once more, said Zaw Naing Win, who also participated in the demonstration.
“We want to see a reunion. … If the leaders have different positions, how about our young people [discuss] how we can move forward in politics,” he told DVB. “We asked the leaders to talk to each other to review how they could unite again. That’s what our young people want.”
The protesters in front of city hall held signs urging unity, with messages such as “We don’t accept the idea of separating Arakanese nationals,” and “Those against national unity are our common enemy.”
The Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) won the most seats in Arakan State during the 1990 election — the outcome of which was ignored by the junta of the time — while the Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP) won the most Arakan State seats in the 2010 general election, which the ALD boycotted. In 2014, the two parties merged to form the ANP in hopes of bolstering prospects in the November 2015 general election.
The ANP went on to win 10 seats in the Lower House, 12 in the Upper House, and 22 of the 47 seats in the regional assembly of Arakan State.
A schism emerged last year, however, with ALD and RNDP factions re-emerging as disputes arose over the party leadership structure and its stance toward the election-winning National League for Democracy.
Months of sometimes public feuding between the two sides has not yet led to a formal separation.