Just weeks after Myanmar's military junta dissolved the country's former ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung Kyi Nyunt, chairman of the party's central executive committee, told VOA that supporters in exile remain in dialogue with both U.S. and Chinese officials about how to move forward.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD and 39 other parties were disbanded March 29 over their failure to meet election registration deadlines in what the U.S., Britain, Australia and Japan have condemned as an illegal maneuver by the army to tighten its grip on power.
The NLD had repeatedly said it wouldn't run in the election, calling it illegitimate.
In an April 6 Zoom interview with VOA, Aung Kyi Nyunt, a former parliamentarian, remains optimistic, stating his popular movement "remains strong."
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
VOA: The junta has declared the NLD party automatically void as a political party because, according to them, the deadline for registration has passed, so what will the NLD do next?
Aung Kyi Nyunt, chairman of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, Myanmar’s parliament group in exile: We will continue to do our job. The junta is not accepted by the people at all and has no legal standing. The question is, do we need to consider the legitimacy of the junta’s announcement? The parties have the support of the people, the junta does not. The military junta is like a sinking ship, while we remain on shore with the people.
We have a 12-step road map in accordance with the Federal Democracy Charter. This Charter was drawn collectively by the NLD and its alliances. As of now, we are on step 7 of our road map, which calls for the abrogation of the previous junta’s constitution from 2008. We are trying to make changes step by step; however, the military junta is using arms to commit violent acts of suppression. They are real fascists, so the only option we have is to fight back with a resistance movement, and any other means available to put more pressure on the junta.
VOA: It seems like the junta doesn’t care about the movements of its opposition. With its latest actions demanding political parties register with the military-appointed election commission and dissolving parties that disagree with the premise of registering with a commission they see as illegitimate, is there any possibility for dialogue with the military junta?
Aung Kyi Nyunt: Our side is clear. Going back under the 2008 constitution and continuing to extend the term of the military dictatorship is not acceptable for the people of Myanmar or the Spring Revolution forces. The military just needs to get out of politics, it must be completely separated from politics. The military must be under the rule of the civilian government. To answer your question, depending on certain pre-conditions, it may be possible to have some dialogue with them. However, we cannot start the conversation with the premise that the Tatmadaw will lead national politics forever.
VOA: The top leaders of the NLD party, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, have been put under arrest along with many other party members. When some party leaders like yourself fled to the border areas, there were criticisms that the party lacked leadership. Some critics also point out that the NLD has failed to make strategic decisions at this critical time. How do you respond?
Aung Kyi Nyunt: We have to think about the current nature of the revolution. Right now, this revolution is the people. The political tide is high now that the new generation no longer does things only when they have guidance. The top leaders of the NLD party have been arrested and detained arbitrarily. Currently, there is no way for the top leaders, including our main chairperson, Aung San Suu Kyi, to lead, but the party remains strong because of its vision for the future of the country.
Like me, exiled NLD legislators formed the CRPH to continue their work in the liberated areas. They have been working with ethnic organizations to increase coordination against the junta, as well as connecting with the international community to bring more recognition for the National Unity Government [Myanmar’s government-in-exile, formed by the CRPH, which comprises members of parliament and elected lawmakers ousted in the 2021 coup].
So the military junta is not just facing a single group, but various layers that we have, including armed ethnic groups, multi-faceted regional groups, etc. It is a situation where all generations are working together and fighting side by side toward the same goal. We see that everyone is performing from various angles and from various sectors. I think it’s a good strategy. In fact, such good tactical coordination has never existed before in Myanmar.
VOA: When the NLD was the ruling party under Aung San Suu Kyi, it had a good relationship with powerful neighboring countries like China. The dissolution of the NLD by the junta has been strongly condemned by Western countries like the United States and Britain. What has the response been from China regarding the NLD?
Aung Kyi Nyunt: The NLD has a good relationship with the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and there has been constant communication. The NLD was invited to attend the online 100th anniversary of the CCP in 2021, even after the coup took place. Communications officers from both parties are in touch about the current issue of party dissolutions. We understand that China won’t officially denounce the junta’s dissolution of the NLD, but the CCP has made it clear to us that the NLD is a major political party that cannot be left out of Myanmar political affairs. They said that the dissolution of the NLD is something that should not take place. There should be dialogue instead.
VOA: You met with Derek Chollet, a senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, last month. How important is the United States’ support for the anti-coup movement in Myanmar? Do you think the U.S. has been effective in their support?
Aung Kyi Nyunt: We are always grateful for the support, and I have great respect for countries like the U.S. But the reality is that we have only ourselves to look to. The revolution is by and for the people of Myanmar, so we can only save ourselves. Similarly, we welcome the support the CCP has shown toward our party. That being said, we have to be careful not to get involved in power games between these two countries.
VOA: From your viewpoint is it likely that China or the U.S. will intervene to facilitate dialogue between the junta and pro-democracy groups?
Aung Kyi Nyunt: It depends on the leadership of the military junta. If you look at the current situation, it looks like the people's side is already winning, but even though they are losing, the military won’t give up easily. International strength and cooperation will be essential in bringing them to the table.