၂၀၁၅ ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲ Irrawaddy.org
Military

‘I Don’t Think the NLD Will Win a Landslide Victory in 2015’

Hla Swe, a prominent member of ruling USDP party, shares his views on Burmese politics, Aung San Suu Kyi and the 2015 elections.


Hla Swe is an Upper House MP representing Magwe Division’s Constituency No. 12 for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and a Central Executive Committee member.

The USDP comprises former junta officers and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the former regime’s political mass movement, who joined the newly former party and entered Parliament following the rigged 2010 election.

The move to turn junta members into civilian MPs is part of the Burma Army’s carefully planned transition to nominally-civilian rule under President Thein Sein’s government.

The USDP will take on Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic minority parties in the 2015 elections, which is supposed to be Burma’s first free and fair vote after more than two decades of military rule.

Hla Swe, a former lieutenant-colonel, is one of the USDP’s more prominent figures as he often speaks to the media and offers his opinions on his Facebook page. Recently, he spoke to The Irrawaddy about the country’s politics, his activities in Parliament and his views on the NLD and its leader Suu Kyi.

What sort of activities do you carry out these days as a parliamentarian?

I usually take a two-day leave from Parliament and for four days, including the weekend, I meet with local people to discuss regional development activities in my native place of Saw Township [in Magwe Division]. I have just inspected the progress in the construction of a 600 million kyat [about US$600,000] bridge across Salin Creek in Saw Township. I am also inspecting the construction of seven bridges between Saw, Zigon and Longshae. I have been supervising the works on the ground and I am going to meet local people there.

How did you join USDP? And why did you not choose the NLD?

I was discharged from the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and became a USDP party member just before the [2010] election. But before the election, I served as patron of USDA in my native place.

As regards my view of NLD membership, dissident civil servants have joined the NLD. Civil servants that resigned in opposition to the government and because of various problems have gathered at NLD.

How did you go from being a military man to a politician?

They [military leaders] took me [to join the USDP]. I was working at my farm in my native village after retiring from the military and they took me to enter politics.

What are the differences between the work of a military officer and a lawmaker? And in which capacity can one better serve the country?

Getting into the Parliament is like reaching a certain class. A lawmaker can do more regional development tasks as he can communicate with ministers and government agencies. He can make demands to the government on behalf of the people. I think that as a lawmaker you can serve better. To me, power is something that can drive you crazy. I am not interested in taking a deputy minister or minister’s post.

Some former generals think that they have become capable of managing politics, governance, as well as the economy, after having served in the military? Do you agree with this view?

No, I think we know nothing. We have yet to learn more, even though we have served in the military.

President Thein Sein has said the military should be thanked for bringing about a stable transition in the country. Do you agree with this view?

Yes, I do. Just draw a comparison with other countries that initiated political reforms before us. We have made the most stable transition. We can prove it. In Egypt and Thailand, the military have seized back power. Cases of beheadings, which we witnessed in 1988 uprising, have started to take place in Iraq. Such cases do no longer happen in our country now. The military is much criticized on Facebook, but just take a look at newspapers and you can see that most girls wed with [military] captains.

You can also understand quite clearly the role of the military by looking at the Meikhtila conflict. Without military involvement, the conflict could have further escalated. [Deadly anti-Muslim raged for days in Meikhtila town in March 2013 until the government finally ordered in the military and imposed a curfew.]

How do you think opposition politicians without a military background will perform, will they make an important contribution to Burmese politics?

I don’t think civilian politicians will be able to hold their heads high. So, I don’t think civilian politicians led by the NLD’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to take the reins in 2015. I don’t think NLD will win a landslide victory in the 2015 election.

Why did you compare Suu Kyi to the computer gaming app “Angry Birds” earlier this year?

Because she was like an angry female bird. I called her an angry bird because of the way that she shouted at an old man in Tatkon, it made me think of an angry bird rather than a fighting peacock [which is the symbol of the NLD].[Suu Kyi reportedly responded angrily during a NLD rally at Naypyidaw’s Tatkon Township in May 2014 when a man, believed to be associated with the government, spoke ill of her father Gen. Aung San]. She did not look like a fighting peacock but an angry bird during this argument. That’s why I called her an angry bird. A fighting peacock is a peacock proud of nationalist spirit and lineage—she did not look like a fighting peacock at that time.

What measures is the USDP taking to work for a victory as the 2015 elections drawing closer?

The most important thing is we, USDP members, need and must be able to show that we are different from what we were in the past. We need to go beyond reforms and must ensure changes, and finally have to make a decisive move [for the future]. This is my principle. We’ll be able to achieve success only when we make such a move.

You seem to be using Facebook quite a lot these days to offer your opinions. Why is that?

Among Facebook users, I’ve found that the moral standards of many people are quite low. But I have also found very outstanding people on Facebook. So I find two kinds of people on there. I think Facebook users are educated and yet some of them are using very strong language. I want to say nothing about it. It is up to them.

For example, a teenager asked me to accept his friend request, saying he wanted to be a friend with me because he wanted to call me names. I accepted his friend request and let him swear at me. It depends on how individuals take it. As to me, I have love for all people.