Silver Jubilee of the Zomi National CongressThursday, October 24, 2013
The Richardson Center was invited to attend the Silver Jubilee of the Zomi National Congress on October 24th in Tedim, Chin State, northwest Myanmar. Chin State is arguably the most neglected and poor state in Myanmar and is notorious for having the worst infrastructure in the country. From the tiny Kalay airport in Sagaing Region, we traveled three hours along a rather treacherous mountain road that was paved in chocolate pudding, or something that looked like that.  We arrived in Tedim, the Zomi Party home base, at night and met the national executive board members of the party.

Four hundred people from near and far attended the 25thAnniversary celebration.  All the party leaders spoke, followed by an NLD attorney who discussed the importance of amending the constitution, representatives from the Yangon School of Political Science spoke and Mindy Walker, from the Richardson Center also shared a few words of congratulations.  Until now, Chin State was off limits to foreigners, but visitors still draw government curiosity and government minders were present at the celebration to keep an eye on things.

The Zomi party currently has no representation at any level of government but they won two parliament seats in the 1990 election. Because the government annulled that election, they were unable to take their seats. Some party activists were jailed and they were prohibited from meeting as a party for decades.  They, in solidarity with the NLD and to protest the 2008 constitution, boycotted the 2010 elections.  The Zomi National Congress recently reregistered with the Central Election Committee to run in the 2015 elections.

The following day the Richardson Center trained 32 members from various political parties on basic campaign research, messaging and targeting.  For most attendees, it was their first political training due to the remoteness of their town. It is obvious how necessary continued political training is but the inaccessibility of the region and the difficulty in travel is going to continue to be a major hurdle to future trainings.  After the training, a gathering was held at the local Zomi Party office before heading back to Kalay down that same rough and slippery mountain road.



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