Henry Van Thio: ‘I Wish To Work For The Entire Country’

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 March 2016

Henry Van Thio, an Upper House National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker from Chin State, was confirmed on Tuesday as one of two vice presidents in Burma’s executive trio, alongside the NLD’s Htin Kyaw as President and Myint Swe as the vice president selected by the military. He spoke with The Irrawaddy’s Htet Naing Zaw in Naypyidaw on Wednesday about his past career, his sudden rise to government leadership and his gratitude for the opportunity to serve as vice president.

Please describe your life before you were elected vice-president.

I was born in Deke Village in Htantalan Township, Chin State. I studied until ninth grade at my village school and matriculated in Htantalan Township. Then I joined the service and rose through the ranks to become a major. I was in the service for 20 years. Then, I transferred to the Ministry of Industry and retired in 2009.

What drove you toward politics? How did you get involved in the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi?

Our country is one of the least developed countries in the world and it can’t walk with its head held high on the international stage. I want my country to stand tall among the international community.

Such thoughts made me consider politics, and drove me to get involved. I studied the policies of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and I absolutely believed that only the NLD could help fulfill my wishes. With this belief, I joined the NLD.

There is some criticism of you and your family having lived abroad. What do you want to say about it? 

Not much. We went abroad with official permission from the government.

What is your view of NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi? Why has she chosen you as the vice-president from among other ethnic lawmakers?

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is highly respected not only by our citizens but also in other parts of the world. She has unwavering loyalty and immense love for the country and the people. She is the people’s leader. This is exactly how I view her.

Why do you think she chose you to be vice-president over other ethnic lawmakers?

I believe she has done so for the sake of the peace and stability of the State, rule of law, and especially national reconciliation and national unity according to her party’s policy. [The fact that she selected me as vice-president] is the proof that she is pursuing her policy.

What plans do you have for Chin State’s development?

I’m an ethnic Chin and from Chin State, but I’m now assigned to the post of vice-president. As a vice-president, I am not supposed to make considerations for only one state. I wish to work for the entire country.

What approaches do you think should be taken toward the realization of peace and a federal Union, which is the aspiration of many ethnic groups?

Mainly, we need to build trust. Both the government and the military need to seek the recommendations and cooperation of concerned specialists in building this trust.

What message would you like to give the voters and the people?

I would like to say thanks. Firstly, I sincerely appreciate all the voters from Chin State Constituency (3) who elected me to the Upper House. Secondly, I am deeply grateful to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who put me on the path to the vice-presidency. And I am grateful to all the lawmakers of Upper House who elected me the vice-president, and all the lawmakers of Union Parliament who confirmed my vice-presidency.

Translated by Thet Ko Ko.