Khin Hla Yee is one 76 candidates chosen by the Arakan National Party (ANP) to contest the Nov. 8 poll. She will seek election to the Arakan State parliament in Ann Township’s No. 1 constituency, home to the Burma Army’s Western Command, where she will be competing against former general Maung Maung Ohn, who resigned as Arakan State chief minister on Aug. 25.
A former social worker, 48-year-old Khin Hla Yee is a central executive committee member of the ANP and the party’s only female candidate seeking election to state parliament. Born in Kyaukphyu and living in Rangoon for the last 15 years, she has been involved in party politics since 2011.
Why did you choose to contest the election in Ann Township, given that it is not your birthplace and you don’t currently live there?
I chose to contest Ann because I want to be the first from an Arakan party to represent the area’s [predominant] ethnicity. No Arakan political parties have contested Ann before. [Buddhist] Arakanese are the majority in Ann Township, with a small population of ethnic Chin Christians.
Ann Township is the headquarters of the Burma Army’s Western Command. Maung Maung Ohn, a former general turned Arakan State chief minister, will also compete in the seat. What challenges do you expect?
Despite not being born there, Ann Township is located in Kyaukphyu District, where I was born. I believe in Ann’s residents, and so far I have had no trouble. My main rival will be the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate [Maung Maung Ohn]. Also contesting are the National League for Democracy, another Arakan party, three Chin parties and the National Unity Party.
I think public commitment is key for all candidates. I believe in my people. They now have the right to choose which candidate they want to vote for. They will vote for the party they believe in.
Do you think the people of Ann are interested in the election and have a high enough knowledge of voter registration and voting procedures?
Ethnic Arakanese in Ann are happy that they now have a party representing them to vote for. Ann is one of the larger townships in Arakan State, but there was no Arakan party in Ann before, so they have welcomed me in a heartfelt manner. I will talk with them about the importance of voter awareness when I begin campaigning in the election, after Sept. 8.
How did you become involved in politics?
Before this, I was just a social activist. I felt like I needed to take part in politics because there needs to be changes in society, not only in Arakan State but across the whole country. I was born in Kyaukphyu and grew up there. I studied the Burmese language at Sittwe College and graduated in 1994. I moved to Rangoon in 2001 with my husband and three children, where I became involved in the Kyaukphyu Township Association and became a member of its central working committee. [Editor’s note: township associations are a common formal support network for out of town locals in Rangoon, responsible for staging social events, cultural activities and collecting donations.]
I joined the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party [one of the ANP’s predecessor parties] in 2011 and was elected a central executive committee member of the ANP after the party’s conference in Thandwe last year. I’m also a committee member for Rangoon Division. It was my decision to contest Ann.
What was the ANP’s view of your decision to contest Ann?
Our party does not select for candidates for townships. It is the township members who select their representatives. The town residents accepted and chose me.
What issues will you prioritize if you win a seat in the Arakan State parliament?
I will do my best to work for significant changes; I have committed myself to this. But I cannot talk about specific issues. I will do best for the issues that I can handle.
What is needed to improve the lives of Ann Township’s residents?
There is a lot. Many parts of Ann are like a separate world. The transport and telecommunications are bad. The power grid is only available in the main town and there is no electricity, roads or development in nearby village tracts.
How confident are you in winning a seat with such a large military presence?
[The Burma Armed Forces commander-in-chief] has said that military soldiers and staff can vote freely. I trust they will vote for candidates and parties that will bring real changes for them.
What is your message to voters?
We are trying to bring changes in our society with the consent of the public. I’d like to urge those who want to see change to join hands with us, and vote for us.