ALD official: ‘If we contest the junta’s election, we become a pillar for perpetuation of dictatorship’

DMG interviewed U Myo Kyaw, general secretary of the ALD, to find out more about his party’s election stance and its view on Myanmar’s political situation more broadly.

12 Feb 2023

DMG Newsroom
12 February 2023

Since early January, Myanmar’s military regime has been conducting a population census in townships across Arakan State to facilitate the compiling of voter lists in preparation for an election planned for later this year. The junta seized power on the pretext of outcome-altering voter fraud in the 2020 general election — a claim widely disputed by international and domestic election monitors — and has framed the upcoming poll as a redo of sorts.

At an Independence Day ceremony on January 4, coup leader Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said the regime would hand over power to the election-winning party.

The Arakan Front Party (AFP), one of the three powerful ethnic political parties in Arakan State, has said it will participate in the junta’s election. The Arakan National Party (ANP) has yet to say whether it will contest the vote, and the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), by contrast, has clearly indicated that it will not field candidates in the election.

Against this backdrop, DMG interviewed U Myo Kyaw, general secretary of the ALD, to find out more about his party’s election stance and its view on Myanmar’s political situation more broadly.

DMG: First, I would like to know the ALD’s opinion on the election to be held by the military junta.

U Myo Kyaw: The ALD has a clear policy and does not accept the sham election to be held by the military regime. The ALD will not contest in this election and it is considered that this election should not be recognised. 

We don’t like this dictatorship. Many children, women, young people, and the elderly have lost their lives because of the military dictators. In addition, many houses and businesses were burned down by the military. We don’t want the election to happen because many people have lost their lives because of the military dictator, and we have to push to prevent this election from happening. We must fight to ensure that the dictatorship does not last long.

DMG: Are you concerned that the ALD will become an illegal party if it does not contest the junta’s planned election?

U Myo Kyaw: The ALD is a political party that emerged out of the 1988 uprising. The ALD contested the 1990 elections as an opposition to the one-party dictatorship. In the 1990 election, the ALD won the third-largest number of seats in Myanmar. In 1992, the then military regime announced the abolition of the ALD. 

The ALD did not disappear after the military disbanded it; rather it joined the political mainstream. Even if the party is disbanded due to not competing in the election according to the rules issued by the regime-appointed Union Election Commission, if the people who believe in the ALD’s policies and the members of this party are working for the national interest and Arakan State, the ALD will continue to survive.

DMG: How will the election that the military junta is trying to hold turn out in Arakan State?

U Myo Kyaw: The ALD sees the junta’s planned election as a sham election. The military regime is not even allowed to hold elections. The military regime has tried to hold onto power by creating a sham election so that the term of the military dictatorship could be extended. The military regime will also hold elections in Arakan State.

If an election is to be held in Arakan State, there will be three major parties. The ALD will not participate in the election at all because we do not want a one-party dictatorship. We have already said this. There are some other major political parties that cooperate with the military dictator. They have accepted positions awarded by the military regime, and some party leaders have said that they will contest the election, so if the election happens, the parties that will contest in Arakan State are ready.

From our point of view, the majority of Arakanese people do not like the junta’s planned election and oppose it. However, it must be said that the community associated with the regime, including the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, have accepted the election.

DMG: How do you see the role of the Arakan Army (AA) playing out election-wise?

U Myo Kyaw: It can be said that there are two governing authorities in Arakan State now. The reason is that on the one hand, the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) is gaining more and more influence across Arakan State, and on the other hand, the influence of the regime is decreasing. So whether or not the election will happen in Arakan State depends a lot on the ULA/AA. If the ULA/AA can prevent the junta’s planned election, the people will be closer to them and the role of the military might fade away.

DMG: How do you view the interests of the Arakanese people in relation to the junta’s planned election?

U Myo Kyaw: Most of the Arakanese people want to create their own destiny freely and live independently in their own land. This means that the Arakanese have a characteristic of wanting to live separately, and I don’t think they will accept the central government’s administration and holding of elections.

DMG: What is your overall assessment of the overall situation in Myanmar since the military seized power?

U Myo Kyaw: People have sacrificed a lot under the current political situation in Myanmar. Many villages, buildings and properties were destroyed by the military. The ALD ought not open the door that allows these dictators to survive. 

The people will have to participate in the revolution against the military dictatorship. If the ALD participates in the junta’s election, we ourselves will become a pillar for the perpetuation of the dictatorship. I want to say that as a whole people, [Arakan State] must oppose the junta’s sham election.