After months of recriminations, ANP split looms

By MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER

YANGON — A split in the Arakan National Party before the end of the year is looking increasingly likely, sources in the party said, after a group of senior members met Saturday to discuss electing a new chairman for a separate political grouping.

U Kyaw Myint, a former vice-chairman of the now-defunct Arakan League for Democracy, told Frontier on Tuesday that a vote for the chairmanship would be held next month.

A group of 15 former members of the ALD, which merged with the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party in 2014 to create the ANP, also held a preliminary discussion about whether to quit the ANP outright, with a decision to be made in Rakhine State on the second week of October.

“Selecting a chairman for the new party will be on the agenda on that day,” Kyaw Myint said.

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Tensions have simmered in the ANP since the January 2014 merger of the ALD, which contested the 1990 election, and the RNDP, which was formed to contest the widely-criticised 2010 poll.

The party’s ex-ALD members last year criticised the RNDP faction, led by party chair Dr Aye Maung, for blocking a number of ALD-aligned candidates from contesting seats in last year’s election.

The ANP emerged from the November 2015 vote as the largest party in the Rakhine Hluttaw, but just short of a majority, leading to the installation of a National League for Democracy chief minister over ANP objections.

In the time since the vote, divisions have emerged between the ALD faction, who advocate some level of cooperation with the NLD government in Nay Pyi Taw, and the RNDP faction, which has called for a more independent path.

The decision by U Aye Thar Aung, the founding chairman of the ALD, to accept appointment as deputy speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw in February brought these divisions to a head.

With the RNDP faction dominating the ANP’s 39-member central executive committee, six of the body’s seven ALD-aligned members were voted out, with the exception of Aye Thar Aung. The party ultimately relented from expelling the six members after internal protests.

Kyaw Myint said Tuesday that Aye Thar Aung’s “perspective is the same as ours”, in relation to the proposal to split from the ANP and form a new political party.  

The ANP have yet to issue a formal comment on the weekend’s meeting, but other party leaders have sought to downplay the split.

“Resigning from the ANP will not affect the ANP at all,” U Khine Pyi Soe, one of the party’s vice-chairs, told Frontier.

Another vice-chair, Daw Aye Nu Sein, hinted that any members leaving the party would be asked to reimburse the ANP for any spending of party funds over the course of their membership.

“According to the party’s rules and regulations, anyone can resign from party,” she said. “But one thing they have to be clear of is money problems in the party.”

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