‘We’ll Scrap Our Party if That’s What Suu Kyi Wants’
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, February 17, 2019


‘We’ll Scrap Our Party if That’s What Suu Kyi Wants’



Photo: MMM/ The Irrawaddy)
Khin Maung Swe, 67, is the leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF), a political party formed by former members of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD). After the NLD decided to boycott this year’s election, Khin Maung Swe and a few other leading NLD members created the new party to contest the November polls, claiming that the election could pave the way for gradual democratic changes in Burma. With candidates running for 161 seats, the NDF is the third largest party in the election, following the regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party and the National Unity Party.

Question: Did you recently say that you would scrap the NDF if Aung San Suu Kyi asks you to when she is released?

Answer: Yes, I did say that. We are willing to dismantle the NDF, but will do so only if that is what Daw Suu desires. She won’t initially understand us once she is freed. But we have other NLD leaders like U Aung Shwe and U Lwin who can explain that we have been on the right track. If she still disagrees with us at that time, then that’s up to her. But she is most welcome if she wants to work together with us, because she is our leader and also the leader of Burma’s democratic struggle.

Q: Do you mean that you want her to join the NDF? Or do mean that you want to solve disagreements with her before the election?

A: I mean we can still work together in politics, even if we have different approaches. Our current disagreements on this coming election may not be reconciled for now. After all, the reason we disagree is that we are neither her subservient followers nor her personal worshipers. We just have a very high regard for her shrewdness and her integrity. We are always ready to follow her leadership if we are able to work together toward the common goal of democracy and human rights after the election. But negotiations will only happen if she wants to talk with us. But even if the differences persist, our attitude toward her as the democratic icon of Burma will not change at all.

Q: We have heard that there is still a lot of resentment toward the NDF among NLD members. Are you willing to mend fences with the NLD if your party does well in the election?

A: Even if we win, we are willing to scrap the NDF banner if we can reach an agreement with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We would be ready to do anything she desires. Those NLD members who hate us are merely succumbing to a personality cult. If the person they worship said OK, then they would go along with her decision.

Q: Do you think that Suu Kyi might be willing to cooperate with you?

A: I am not sure about that right now. But when she sees Burma’s political landscape after she is released, I think she will at least talk with us. That’s our hope. She may not be the leader of our party, but she is the leader of the Burmese people.

Q: We have heard some harsh criticism of Suu Kyi’s decision not to join the polls from people who later became NDF party members. Do these people share your views on cooperating with her?

A: I can say that within the NDF, there is no one who would not agree to cooperate with Daw Suu. Also, what Daw Suu said was that it would be a violation of citizens’ rights if people were forced to vote in this election. She has never urged people not to vote.

Q: Some people say that you and other NDF leaders are using Suu Kyi’s name to benefit your party. What is your reaction to this charge?

A: The name of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is common property. She represents 50 million Burmese people. If NLD members want a monopoly over her name and want to narrowly confine her role to being just the leader of the NLD, then they are wrong.

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