Originally appeared in Mizzima NewsSeptember 16, 2010
The largest party in Kachin State had its run for power effectively halted only months into this year’s electoral race when the Burmese junta’s election watchdog rejected its application for registration as a party.
The Union Election Commission (UEC) said in July that the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) was ineligible to register because of connections with armed ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), and also banned its members from contesting in the polls on November 7 as independent candidates.
The commission verbally accused the 14 KSPP leaders of also having links with the KIO, even though the UEC had permitted generals on the other side of the truce to stand for the election after retiring from their army posts. KSPP secretary Tu Raw spoke to Mizzima’s correspondent Phanida about these issues and why the party had been forced “to live on only in our hearts”.
Q: We’ve heard that the UEC has rejected the nomination papers submitted by KSPP members as independent candidates, besides refusing to register the party. What reason did it give to you?
A: They gave no reason at all. The UEC’s district office issued the candidates list and our [member’s] names were omitted not on it.
Q: Why do you think they rejected your members?
A: I think they [UEC, junta officials] rejected us as the KIO had refused its proposal of converting the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) into [the junta’s] Border Guard Force (BGF).
Q: How did you arrive at that conclusion and what is the evidence against you [KIO]?
A: The only possible reason is the KIO/KIA’s refusal to accept the proposal to bring the KIA under the command of the Burmese Army in its BGF. Even though we are not members of the KIO/KIA, another reason was probably also the fact that we are Kachin.
Q: The UEC said it would hold talks with the KSPP. Why haven’t they done so?
A: I think they came here but to carry out their own business. The district UEC officials said they would come to meet us but it will not be a business meeting. I think it will be a social visit.
Q: How many constituencies are in Kachin State? In how many constituencies will the [junta-backed] Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) contest?
A: There are 18 townships in Kachin State so there are 18 constituencies for the Phyithu Hluttaw (lower house), 12 constituencies for the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house) and 36 constituencies for the States and Regions Assembly. The USDP will contest in all these constituencies. Another Kachin party led by Khet Htein Nan [the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State or UDPKS] will contest in the constituencies left by the USDP. They shared these constituencies among themselves as they are allied parties.
Q: How do you feel about the other Kachin party, the UDPKS?
A: This party is constituted with former USDP members so we see this party as USDP by another name. No other Kachin will join them. Our policies are quite different from theirs as they’ve joined hands with the regime. We are representing Kachin people … How much support from Kachin people we have will be known when votes are cast on polling day.
Q: Will you boycott this election as you were prevented from contesting?
A: We can’t contest in elections this time … also we don’t need to dissolve our party as it doesn’t officially exist as its application to be registered was rejected by the UEC. So the KSPP will live on only in our hearts as the regime has denied it recognition.
Q: Will you rejoin the KIO? What are your party members planning to do?
A: I think Dr. Tu Ja will not rejoin the KIO as he had already officially resigned from the organisation – long before joining us.
Q: You have waited a long time for the UEC’s decision to contest in this election. Now that the UEC has rejected, what will you do next?
A: I feel there’s no justice in our country. This [the denial of election participation] is oppression by the regime. I don’t know who to vote for so I will not cast my vote. I think many people will feel the same.Kachin State, Kachin State Progressive Party, Union Election Commission, Union Solidarity and Development Party, Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State
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