NDF Party to Ally with Pro-democracy, Ethnic Groups

Friday, May 7, 2010 (The Irrawaddy)

A former leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who plans to form a new political party to contest in the coming election said the party will ally with other pro-democracy and ethnic parties to shape the pro-democracy movement.

“Our unfinished duty is to bring peace, democracy and development to the people of Burma,” said Than Nyein, a former NLD executive member and a leader of the new party. “For the cause, we will work together with other political parties including ethnic parties after we form the National Democratic Force (NDF) party.”
Than Nyein said the NDF would not rush to ally with other political groups until it had studied the nature of the campaign and the political parties.

“Our party would also avoid to contest in ethnic areas in favor of the rights of ethnic political parties to manage their affairs,” Than Nyein told The Irrawaddy on Friday. “Like the democracy issue, ethnic issues are also important for us.”

He said ethnic political issues should be resolved alongside democracy and human rights issues.

People should approach politics pragmatically, he said: “Sometimes when the things that we want can not happen, we need to think about other ways to achieve our main goal—how to contribute to society in a better way.”

Than Nyein and his former NLD colleagues will formally apply to register the new party within one month. The NLD was dissolved as a political party on Thursday after it decided not to re-register, saying the electoral laws are not fair. The laws banned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees from running in the election.

As for Suu Kyi’s future political role, Than Nyein said she is still their party's leader.

“At any time Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can come to lead us,” he said. “We always respect her.”

He said detained activists of the 88 Generation Students group who are now in their forties and thirties, such as Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, are also welcome. “They are a new generation,” Than Nyein said.

After the election commission approves the NDF’s application, he said that many former NLD members are likely to join the NDF party, and the party expects to rely heavily on former NLD activists across the country.

Meanwhile, some former NLD leaders expressed caution about the role of the NDF.

Win Tin, a former colleague of Than Nyein who pposed NLD re-gistration, said that Than Nyein and other former NLD members within the new political party must be loyal to the people of Burma and respect Suu Kyi.

Some activist said they were concerned that the NDF could split dissident groups, which could affect the overall pro-democracy movement.

“We could see a big split among the opposition,” said Chan Tun, a veteran Rangoon politician. “I want to suggest that they seek unity and understanding. If you have the same goals, then it's all right to use different tactics and approaches. I hope all the pro-democracy groups can avoid disunity, which would be the biggest blow for the movement.”

Than Nyein was a former student leader in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During the 1988 uprising, he was a physician in southern Shan State, where he led a pro-democracy movement. After the military coup, he was briefly detained.

In the early 1990s, Than Nyein and other NLD leaders close to Suu Kyi were sideline from the party because of the junta’s pressure. He said a number of his friends have died in prison. He was arrested several times during the past 20 years. His last detention was in 1996 for aiding Suu Kyi. He was released in September 2008 along with other NLD leaders such as Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe.

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