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ZNC Re-asserting Relevance after Being Refused Registration

21 May 2012: The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) is scrambling to call an emergency meeting to discuss issues relating to its relevance in the Burmese political scene after the Union Election Commission rejected its application for a registration as a political party.

ZNC, a political party that won two seats from Tedim and Tonzang constituencies from Chin State during the 1990 Elections, was denied registration on the basis that the term Zomi, a northern Chin sub-ethnic group otherwise locally recognized as such, is not included in the 130-plus ‘national races’ officially recognized by the Burmese government.

The Union Election Commission has given ZNC until the end of May to submit a new application for registration to come up with a new name for the party.

Chairman Pu Chin Sian Thang told Chinland Guardian that ZNC’s committee leaders will meet soon to talk about whether to change the name of the party or to make an appeal against the rejection.

“Our party was accepted for registration even during the revolution period after the 1988 uprising. Being rejected this time around under a ‘democratic government’ has made us feel that our rights are being violated,” protests the 74-year-old politician.

A former political prisoner, Chin Sian Thang has been a vocal opponent of the successive Burmese military regimes. His party, despite its limited geographical representation in Chin State, had been one of the most visible political players nationally for the last two decades in Burma.

A staunch supporter of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Chin Sian Thang was a member of the Committee Representing People’s Parliament, a core group of ethnic parties and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, formed in the late 1990s which advocated for a transfer of power to the 1990 election victors.

The ZNC, along with several other ethnic parties from the 1990 elections remained loyal to Suu Kyi’s party and followed the NLD’s lead in boycotting the 2010 elections and not renewing their party registration under a new election law that was introduced by the Burmese junta.

In an interview with Chinland Guardian in January 2012, Chin Sian Thang expressed his full confidence in Suu Kyi saying that of all the Burmese political leaders only Aung San Suu Kyi and her late father General Aung San, Burma’s independence leader, are trustworthy.

But Suu Kyi’s NLD made a policy U-turn by registering the party to contest in the April by-elections sweeping all but two of the 45 contested seats. It contested in 44 of the 45 seats and won 43 of them.

But all the ethnic parties that faithfully aligned themselves with the NLD, including the ZNC were left scrambling to stay relevant within the Burmese political scene after the NLD’s drastic and sudden policy reversion.

While admitting to Chinland Guardian that he doesn’t know what his party’s extraordinary meeting this month will come up with, Chin Sian Thang was quoted by Khonumthung News earlier as saying the ZNC will likely change its name so that it can compete in the 2015 elections.

ZNC was declared illegal organization along with other Chin political parties in the 1990s after the military junta refused to recognize the results of the 1990 elections.

The Zomi National Congress, founded in 1988, is a political party committed to restoring and establishing democratic government and federal union of Burma with Pu Chin Sian Thang, an elected MP during the 1990 General Election, as its chairman.

The other member of the ZNC MP-elect is Pu Thang Lian Pau, who has been the head of the armed group Zomi Re-unification/Revolutionary Organization (ZRO), which operates in Manipur State of India, since the late 1990s.

The ZRO/ZRA camp in Manipur was visited by the Indian Home Minister, Chief Minister of Manipur and other Indian Union-level officials.

Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang
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