No breakthrough was reached in difficult talks last night between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Arakan National Party over the make-up of the new Rakhine State government.
National League for Democracy (NLD) officials said the party had reiterated its position that the Rakhine chief minister would come from the ranks of the NLD despite ANP demands it should be given the top post. Talks are to continue next week, they said.
Tensions are rising in Rakhine State over the issue. Several hundred ANP supporters demonstrated in Sittwe on March 23 to press for the chief minister to be appointed from the ANP, which won a majority of the state’s elected MPs last November with its strong defence of Rakhine’s Buddhist community.
On the request of the ANP, MPs from both sides met in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss formation of the government. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, looking tense, led the NLD team, reflecting the importance of the dispute. Their talks lasted more than an hour.
Senior NLD official U Win Htein told reporters that the ANP was informed that, as widely expected, the NLD’s U Nyi Pu, a state MP, would be appointed chief minister. However the ANP was assured it would be offered some positions in the state cabinet, along with “technocrats”.
U Win Htein reiterated that the naming of U Nyi Pu was in accordance with the 2008 constitution which gives the president the right to appoint chief ministers. He said they had not discussed how many ministerial posts would be offered to the ANP.
The NLD sought to cooperate with Rakhine’s biggest party over a range of major issues, he said.
“We discussed the future development of Rakhine State. We will cooperatively resolve the religious conflicts, social problems and economic issues in Rakhine State,” he said.
Myanmar’s second-poorest state by some indicators was torn apart by conflict between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims in 2012, resulting in segregation of the two communities with camps set up for some 140,000 people. Most are stateless Muslims who were last year stripped of their right to vote and have no representatives in parliament.
ANP representatives who attended yesterday’s talks said they were keeping alive their hope of getting the post of chief minister. Daw Khin Saw Wai, a lower house MP, said a party team would meet for another round with the NLD next week over the issue.
The team includes ANP chair U Aye Maung, U Tun Aung Kyaw and U Thar Tun Hla.
The time and place for the next round of talks have yet to be decided.
Daw Khin Saw Wai said she was pleased the two parties had met. She said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi highlighted the NLD’s cooperation with ANP member U Aye Thar Aung, newly appointed deputy speaker of the upper house, since 1990.
“We said that they should cooperate with the new, non-1990 Rakhine politicians as well,” Daw Khin Saw Wai added.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was said to have tried to reduce tensions by saying that her pick for chief minister would not act alone and would coordinate with the central government.
But Daw Khin Saw Wai said her party wanted to know why the NLD had chosen U Nyi Pu. However she also indicated that the ANP was ready to “rethink” its earlier statements when it warned the NLD it would act as an opposition party if its cabinet demands were not met.
“We hope that the talks next week will have a satisfactory outcome for both sides,” she said.