President picks party leaders for Jan 12 meeting

President Thein Sein meets leaders from more than 60 political parties in November last year. (Photo - EMG)

President Thein Sein will meet leaders of numerous political parties at the Presidential House in Nay Pyi Taw on January 12 to discuss this year’s general election and the promotion of democracy. 

The President’s Office has yet to receive several replies to its invites. 

The invitation letter says the agenda will concentrate on three topics: continued efforts for democratisation and reform, the holding of political talks for national reconciliation and the holding of free and fair elections in 2015. 

Aye Tha Aung of the Arakan National Party (ANP), who has been invited to attend the meeting, said: “Myanmar is now in a crisis. Democratic reform, stopping of civil war and the internal peace process mainly depend on the 2008 Constitution. Charter change within Parliament is also uncertain. 

“In the meeting, we should discuss the political crisis. Ceasefire talks are not only static but also backsliding. It is not good if the meeting is just a gathering. Can we seek common ground? How can we adopt work programmes to address the political crisis? How can we plan to solve those problems? I intend to discuss these issues.” 

ANP chairman Dr Aye Maung said on Friday that no invitation had arrived. He was chosen as an ethnic representative to attend six-party talks approved by the Union parliament, which have yet to be organised. 

Zo Zan, spokesperson from the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, said he had been invited as a representative from the Chin National Front. 

Lower House MP Thein Nyunt, also chairman of the New National Democracy Party, and the ethnic Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party’s vice chairman Mann Aung Pyi Soe said no invite had been received. 

National League for Democracy spokesperson Win Myint said that he did not know about the meeting. 

Ethnic affairs ministers from various states and regions have reportedly been invited. 

Saw Tun Aung, chairman of the Kayin People’s Party and Kayin affairs minister in Yangon Region, said he had been invited in both capacities. 

In late 2013, NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi asked for four-party talks with the president, Parliament Speaker, commander-in-chief and herself in order to pave the way for constitutional amendments. 

The president, however, rejected the demand, saying the talks should be considered after a report compiled by the Union Parliament’s Constitutional Amendment Committee was published. 

On October 31, the government organised a meeting involving the president, two vice-presidents, Speakers of the lower and upper houses, chairman of the Union Election Commission, the commander-in-chief and his deputy, Aung San Suu Kyi and vice chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party Htay Oo. 

Other invitees were the chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Khun Tun Oo, representing the United Nationalities Alliance, chairman of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party Sai Aik Paung of the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, chairman of the National Democratic Force Khin Maung Swe of the Federal Democratic Alliance and the National Unity Party’s Thein Tun. 

The meeting did not yield any good results and each participant had only 10 minutes to speak. 

Union Parliament MP Myint Tun from the ruling party proposed on November 25 that six-party talks be held and it was approved without objection. 

On November 26, Thein Sein met leaders from more than 60 political parties at the offices of the Yangon regional government. He promised to hold a more inclusive meeting than the one in Nay Pyi Taw.