RANGOON— Originally trained as a metallurgist, Saw Moe Myint spent his career as a mining engineer and manager of factories run by Burma’s Ministry of Mines.
Now retired after nearly four decades in public service, Saw Moe Myint has become an active environmentalist. A member of the Myanmar Green Network, which has lobbied the government on the environmental consequences of the Myitsone Dam and Letpadaung copper mine projects, the 68-year-old has his sights set on a seat in Naypyidaw, hoping to bring green issues to the forefront of the next parliament.
“I am hopeful that I do more as a lawmaker to highlight the environmental issues we are facing now,” he told The Irrawaddy. “I will discuss sustainable development that will benefit the current and next generation. I also hope to start debate on dam developments and coal-fired power projects, whether they are good for the people and whether we really need them.”
Saw Moe Myint, who will run for election the Karen State capital of Hpa-an is one of several committed environmentalists who will be contesting the Nov. 8 poll for the National League for Democracy (NLD), alongside a cohort of academics and professionals drawn from across Burmese society.
At a time when large electricity generation and mining projects are stoking community concerns around the country, the opposition party has sought expert voices to temper its expansive economic development agenda with a respect for social and environmental protections.
“I’m interested in transparency in extractive industries and land confiscation issues,” Tin Thit, the NLD’s Union candidate for Pokebathiri Township in Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy. “What I have in mind right now is the mining bill that has now been postponed for discussion in the Union Parliament. If I am elected, I will push for improvements for environmental protection as well as government revenue.”
As one of the founding members of Green Activities Mandalay (GAM), Tin Thit has spent the last five years coordinating weekly tree planting activities in the old royal capital in order to raise awareness on the impact of climate change. In 2011, GAM was involved in the public campaign to shut down construction on the Myitsone Dam, which was later suspended by President Thein Sein.
The NLD will be fielding 1130 candidates across the country to compete in the Nov. 8 poll, widely expected to be the most democratic since the 1990 election gave the party a landslide victory, which was later annulled by the military regime.
Win Myint, a member of the NLD’s central executive committee, told The Irrawaddy that around 75 percent of the party’s candidates had university or post-graduate qualifications, with backgrounds ranging from medicine, engineering and law to the environment.
“We have a wide range of professionals among our candidates,” he said. “We need experts in every sector if we want to make this country developed.”