A Rakhine National Party election campaign rally in Yangon, October 25, 2015. (Ye Aung Thu / AFP)
NAY PYI TAW — The Rakhine State parliament in Sittwe has elected as its speaker a lawmaker with ties to an insurgent army currently battling against Myanmar's military.
State lawmakers have confirmed to Frontier a parliamentary vote on Monday morning to appoint as speaker U San Kyaw Hla, a lawmaker representing Ponnagyun for the Rakhine National Party and father-in-law of Brigadier General Tun Myat Naing, the chief of the Arakan Army.
Along with four other ethnic armed groups, the Arakan Army was barred by the government from participating in last year's National Ceasefire Agreement due to ongoing hostilities. With an estimated fighting force of 1,500, the Arakan Army has received training support from the Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar's north, and was involved in numerous skirmishes with Tatmadaw troops in Rakhine State last year. Brig-Gen Tun Myat Naing is believed to reside in Laiza, the KIA's headquarters.
More than 200 people were displaced during the most recent round of clashes in Kyauktaw township. In response, the military has said it would "eliminate the Arakan Army" in an announcement carried by state-run media last month.
Monday's parliamentary session in Sittwe, the first in which the winners of last November's election took their seats, also elected the RNP's U Phone Minn as deputy speaker.
The appointment of a chief minister for Rakhine State remains on the agenda. Under the terms of the 2008 Constitution, Myanmar's president has the sole authority to appoint regional government heads.
Despite being the largest party in the Sittwe legislature, winning 22 of the state's 35 elected seats, the RNP is several seats short of a majority, owing to the 12-strong bloc of military appointees. The party has lost one seat after U Hla Aung Nyunt, the MP-elect for Minbya-2, was convicted of trespassing and harassing a woman working for a rival candidate of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The National League for Democracy, which sent eight lawmakers to the Sittwe parliament, has put forward NLD lawmaker U Nyi Bu as the party's chief minister candidate. In response, the RNP has threatened to boycott the parliament unless one of its members is appointed chief minister.