RANGOON — Ma Thandar, an esteemed Burmese activist and the widow of a journalist killed in the custody of the Burma Army last year, will seek election to the Lower House of Burma’s Parliament as a member of the main opposition party.
The award-winning human rights defender will contest a seat representing Irrawaddy Division’s Einme Township with the National League for Democracy (NLD), the pro-democracy party chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi.
“I will be contesting as a Lower House lawmaker, and I will begin canvassing tomorrow in my native place,” Ma Thandar told The Irrawaddy on Monday. Burma’s highly anticipated national election, which is hoped to be the first free and fair poll in the country in decades, will take place on Nov. 8.
Ma Thandar said she decided to focus on politics do draw her attention away from the tragedy of her husband’s death last October. Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, was a freelance journalist covering conflict in southeastern Burma’s Mon State. He was apprehended by the Burma Army on Sept. 30 on allegations of ties to an ethnic rebel group, which his family and acquaintances maintain were untrue.
This is a crucial time for the country, and my personal wishes are not more important than the nation’s.”
About three weeks after his disappearance, the Burma Army announced via the country’s Interim Press Council that the prisoner had attempted to escape and was shot dead on Oct. 4. His body, which had already been buried for weeks, was exhumed, examined and transported to Rangoon for burial. Early inspection of the corpse indicated that he may have been tortured, a claim that the government denies.
In the months since, Ma Thandar has launched a tireless judicial effort to seek justice for her husband’s sudden death, but thus far she has been unsuccessful.
“This is a crucial time for the country, and my personal wishes are not more important than the nation’s,” Ma Thandar said, adding that while she will now be devoting much of her time to the campaign, “I will not give up on the verdict.”
Ma Thandar expressed confidence that she could secure the seat in her hometown, as she has years of experience in public communications and knows many people in the constituency personally. Many of the villages in the township, she said, are loyal NLD supporters.
The campaign period for Burma’s election officially commences on Tuesday. Ma Thandar said she is now preparing her candidacy’s public relations rollout, which will need to be approved by the Union Election Commission (UEC). While she has been fully approved as a candidate—a feat that proved difficult for many parliamentary aspirants—Ma Thandar said she remained concerned that she may face additional hurdles from the commission as the vote nears.