A new gov­ern­ment should be able to end any riot

Ka­man Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party vice chair­man Hla Toe talks about his party’s cam­paign, the prob­lems of the Ka­man Mus­lims and Myan­mar’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Ei Cherry Aung

Hla Toe, vice chair­man of the Ka­man Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party, is con­test­ing for a Lower House seat in Yan­gon’s Min­galar Taung Nyunt Town­ship, in the Nov. 8 elec­tions.

The Ka­man are a recog­nised Mus­lim mi­nor­ity who live mostly in western Myan­mar’s Rakhine State. De­spite their le­gal sta­tus, they have be­come en­snared in the in­ter-com­mu­nal con­flict be­tween Bud­dhist Rakhine and state­less Ro­hingya Mus­lims in the north of the state.

In an in­ter­view with Myan­mar Now reporter Ei Cherry Aung, the 56-year-old former teacher talked about the Ka­man’s prob­lems, his party’s cam­paign and the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

In which con­stituen­cies will your

party con­test?

We have to­tal of four men who are can­di­dates - two can­di­dates will run in Rakhin State and two in Yan­gon Re­gion.

Why didn’t you field any women can­di­dates?

There are three women among our 15 cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers. Al­though we sug­gested they con­test in the up­com­ing

elec­tions they could not do so for sev­eral rea­sons.

You have most sup­port among the Ka­man in Rakhine State but you are also con­test­ing in Yan­gon. Why?

I did not win in Rakhine State dur­ing the 2010 gen­eral elec­tions be­cause the num­ber of Ka­man peo­ple is smaller than the Rakhine pop­u­la­tion. And there is some sort of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in Rakhine (against Mus­lims), but this can­not be found in Yan­gon. As I am a res­i­dent of Min­galar Taung Nyunt Town­ship I de­cided I to con­test here.

When I be­come an MP, I will fo­cus on the wel­fare of the Ka­man eth­nics, along with other peo­ple in Rakhine State and the whole coun­try.

Why haven’t you started cam­paign­ing from Sept. 8, when the cam­paign pe­riod be­gan?

We are sched­uled to start our cam­paign in the first week of Oc­to­ber. Our party has lim­ited hu­man and financial resources, we can­not com­pete with prom­i­nent par­ties on this front. We will con­duct our cam­paign once a week start­ing in Oc­to­ber.

What is your strat­egy for pro­mot­ing your party in such a short time span?

Our cam­paign prom­ises in­clude bring­ing the pub­lic’s voices to par­lia­ment and ask­ing for bud­gets for road con­struc­tion, elec­tric­ity sup­ply and wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion.

In which con­stituen­cies do you ex­pect to win?

We have no high hopes… We can be sat­is­fied if one or two of our can­di­dates win a seat in the elec­tions, es­pe­cially in Yan­gon. But it will be dif­fi­cult to win in Rakhine State. We can see some racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in that state.

What is your party’s plan if you do not win in this elec­tion?

We will keep mak­ing de­mands for the needs of the Ka­man peo­ple, es­pe­cially in the in­fras­truc­ture sec­tor. As we have founded a party, we can meet the pres­i­dent or the min­is­ters to ex­plain our needs. If we have no party, it would be very hard to do so.

Q: Do you think the up­com­ing elec­tions will be free and fair?

A: It is too early to make a judg­ment. It can only be de­cided on polling day when in­ter­na­tional ob­servers come to wit­ness the process.

Do you think the 2015 elec­tions can bring sig­nif­i­cant change to Myan­mar?

If the rul­ing party wins again in the elec­tions, no real change can be ex­pected. Change is likely only when the op­po­si­tion par­ties and eth­nic par­ties win a ma­jor­ity vote. A coali­tion gov­ern­ment could cre­ate checks and bal­ances among the par­ties. If the two ma­jor par­ties (NLD and USDP) dom­i­nate in the par­lia­ment, the eth­nic mi­nor­ity par­ties could only make some crit­i­cism.

The next pres­i­dent should be elected from among civil­ians, re­gard­less of any party’s ma­jor­ity. The mil­i­tary has ruled the coun­try for many decades and does so now af­ter tak­ing off their uni­forms. The in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Thein Sein is also a former gen­eral. We hope for a pres­i­dent who can gen­uinely rep­re­sents the pub­lic. Mil­i­tary per­son­nel are only fa­mil­iar with get­ting strict or­ders, they can­not un­der­stand the feel­ings and prob­lems of the pub­lic like a civil­ian pres­i­dent could.

Do you think the cur­rent gov­ern­ment brought sig­nif­i­cant changes to Myan­mar?

They could make cer­tain changes. For ex­am­ple, many peo­ple are now us­ing mobile phones, which cost about US$5,000 in the past. Car prices have de­clined. Peace talks could be held. But they could not con­trol and pre­vent in­ter-com­mu­nal riots in Rakhine State and other parts of Myan­mar. Many peo­ple, es­pe­cially the Ka­man peo­ple, in Sit­twe, Thandwe, Kyauk Phyu and Ram­ree (town­ships) suf­fered from the im­pacts of the (Rakhine) cri­sis in 2012.

Ac­tu­ally, the gov­ern­ment needs to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion against ri­ot­ers when th­ese prob­lems hap­pen. When such con­flicts oc­cur the prop­erty of Ka­man peo­ple was some­times de­stroyed. Rule of law is still weak in Myan­mar. There­fore, the next pres­i­dent should fo­cus on this. As new gov­ern­ment should be able to end any riot.

We have no high hopes… We can be sat­is­fied if one or two of our can­di­dates win a seat in the elec­tions, es­pe­cially in Yan­gon.

U Hla Toe, vice chair­man of the Ka­man Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party. Photo: Myan­mar Now

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