After five year stint in the Rangoon Divisional Parliament, Nyo Nyo Thin, who was elected as an independent, isn’t quite satisfied. Known as something of an outspoken lawmaker who has never failed to question the divisional government on controversial issues—notably a divisive Rangoon City Expansion Plan and now-defunct developments near the Shwedagon Pagoda—she has now decided to vie for a national seat on a major party ticket.
Last week, Nyo Nyo Thin submitted an application for candidacy as a Lower House representative forBurma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) in a general election to be held in November. The Irrawaddy speaks with Nyo Nyo Thin about why she joined the party and what she hopes to accomplish on a national level.
Why did you decide to join the NLD?
As a lawmaker, I have five years of experience in the Rangoon Divisional Parliament. I wanted it to be a place where democratic forces were really active. The Rangoon divisional government is important too, as it is the government of the country’s business hub. So the government has to be clean even if it can’t [yet] offer good governance.
I want to help form the cleanest government, if not the best government. When I looked for fellows to work with, I saw no other option except the NLD. It’s not the best party, but I haven’t found anyone better yet as an opposition force. So I joined them to create a government on which people can rely. The NLD hasn’t got any lawmakers at the Rangoon Divisional Parliament. I will share my five years of experience with them. That’s the reason why I joined.
After five years in the divisional Parliament, what were your observations?
As for my experience there, the USDP [ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party] members mostly represented the divisional government, not the people. In contrast, there are some USDP members in the Union Parliament who dare to defy their party for the interests of people. So for those in the Rangoon Parliament, I don’t believe they are people who citizens could rely on for another five year term. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know what they have done after five years in the Parliament.
If I were to contest as an independent, I would win. But I can’t effectively make the Rangoon divisional government clean [without the support of a major party]. It would be the same as what I faced over the last five years. Initially I had no plan to join the NLD, but as the election nears I see that the NLD is very weak, especially in Rangoon. I want the Rangoon government to be corruption free. I realized that I need to have a big alliance behind me to achieve that. I received their offer from the township and divisional levels in January, and I thought about it very seriously. Finally, I submitted the form to join them last week.
You say the NLD is weak. What are their weaknesses?
In Rangoon Division, they have no parliamentarians there, so they have no idea about the USDP’s weak points and strong points. They are not very attentive to local governance, as they seemingly put all their efforts into amending the Constitution in Naypyidaw, as you all know. They have very little interest in the Rangoon divisional government. It is very important that if you can control Rangoon, the governance for other states and divisions are much easier. So I’m trying to fill in this gap—a big gap.
Do you think you will win?
Yes, I do. If the election is free and fair.
Why are you so sure?
Rangoon people know me. They know when I questioned what at the Parliament. They know my stance there.
What are your achievements so far after five years as a lawmaker?
When people asked me, during previous campaigns, what I could do for them, I answered: “I can’t do anything big, but when your rights are threatened by authorities, I will stand with you. You can use me as a shield.” I kept that promise, given what I have done so far as an outspoken member of Parliament. Some people are worried that I might become silent after joining the NLD, but I can sincerely promise you that I will never be silent.
Why do you want to run for the Lower House?
In the Lower House, I have found that no one from the NLD is familiar with divisional Parliament or local governance issues. I want to make laws that are needed for states and divisions. We need specific laws for tenders and procurement. The next Rangoon divisional government will not have the same chances that the current one did. To make [good local governance] possible—not only for Rangoon but elsewhere, as well—the laws have to be passed at the Union Parliament. That’s why I’m running for the Lower House.
What is your message to the people this time?
If the government is corrupt, use me as a knife. My greatest desire is to fight against corruption in government. Even if the NLD wins and there are any corrupted ministers among them, I will have to fight against them, too.
Additional reporting contributed by Kyaw Hsu Mon and May Sitt Paing.