The Arakan Army (AA) is ready to cooperate with the government if Myanmar’s 2020 general election will be held in Arakan State, the ethnic armed group’s leader, Maj-Gen Twan Mrat Naing, told The Irrawaddy recently.

DMG’s Kyaw Thu Htay contacted some lawmakers, representatives of political parties and election observers to elicit their views on the comments made by the AA chief.

Dr. Myo Nyunt, Spokesperson for ruling National League for Democracy (NLD)

“This request isn’t suitable for the current political situation and it can create more complex political issues. The Arakan issue is a political problem. We want to resolve political problems by political means. If the Arakan Army demands its rights by force, armed conflicts will intensify in the country. Local people in Arakan State also will face more difficulties. I think such requests, which aren’t in conformity with current circumstances, should not be made.”

Khaing Pyi Soe, General Secretary of Arakan National Party (ANP)

“I think Arakan Army Chief Maj-Gen Twan Mrat Naing’s comment was intended for the government. The battlefield between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army has expanded in Arakan State.

So the government must inevitably coordinate with the Arakan Army to hold the general election in Arakan State. Only when a ceasefire agreement between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army is in place can the election be successfully held in Arakan State. The election would be nothing without a ceasefire agreement. Thousands of local people from Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U and Ponnagyun townships are currently taking refuge at relief camps. How can the displaced people from relief camps cast their votes if the government holds the general election without negotiating with the Arakan Army? This is a big problem.

So both sides need to halt the fighting. I think either the Union Election Commission or the government needs to negotiate with the Arakan Army to be able to hold a free and fair election in Arakan State.”

Daw Khin Saw Wai, Lower House Lawmaker (Arakan National Party- ANP)

“He expressed his belief and view. But we need to monitor the situation. We must consider challenges and problems to be encountered in Arakan State if the general election will not be held. For example, we are trying to build a so-called federal, democratic union. We need to win a majority in the parliament so as to elect the chief minister nominated by local legislators.

If the general election will not be held in Arakan State, the role of the Arakan State parliament will lose luster. The voice of the regional parliament will disappear. In addition, the voices of politicians who represent the public may disappear. We need to closely monitor what will happen in Arakan State.

He [Maj-Gen Twan Mrat Naing] may have his own faith. We entered the parliament to establish a genuine, federal, democratic union. No matter what happens, I would like to say that we want the best political landscape for Arakan State.”

U Khaing Kaung San (Arakan State Election Monitoring Group)

“This is a really pragmatic comment. The remark made by the Arakan Army chief reflects the ground situation in Arakan State, because the general election will not be held in Arakan State if military tensions between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army continue to intensify. I am worried about the possible disappearance of the role of political parties and parliament members who will be elected by Arakanese people if the government is unable to hold political dialogue with the Arakan Army and recognize the ethnic armed group.

The Tatmadaw or the union government or the local government must negotiate with the Arakan Army. The discussions should be publicly available. A free and fair election is sine qua non of democracy. I think coordination between the government and the Arakan Army should be made in order to hold the general election in every township in Arakan State.”

U Hla Myint, Spokesperson for Arakan League for Democracy (ALD)

“In my personal opinion, the Arakan Army released the statements over levying taxes on infrastructure projects and business in Arakan State and establishing an organization. These issues interrelate with each other.

The influence of the Arakan Army over local people has rapidly grown in Arakan State, to a certain extent. By other means, this is a similar activity of a ruling government. The incumbent government should take an offer made by the Arakan Army into consideration in the interests of local people. I would say that the government should consult with the Arakan Army and recognize the ethnic armed group.

We can’t deny that the Arakan Army has an influence on local people in Arakan State to a certain extent. The government and Union Election Commission should think about it in the interests of Arakanese people.”

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