Mon State Elects Parliament’s First Female Speaker

By Yen Saning 10 February 2016

RANGOON — Tin Ei, an MP from Thanbyuzayat constituency in Mon State, has become the first female speaker of one of Burma’s regional parliaments.

Burma’s 14 state and division legislatures elected speakers and deputy speakers on Monday, with lawmakers from the National League for Democracy (NLD) assuming the posts in all but two parliaments—Arakan and Shan states.

Tin Ei, a vibrant 70-year-old, said she learned on Sunday that she would be nominated as the speaker of the Mon State parliament. The selection of the position was finalized on February 8, the first day of meetings for state and division parliaments.

While Tin Ei was not aware that she would be the only woman across the country heading a regional legislature at the time of her interview with The Irrawaddy, she expressed pride in being able to represent the women of Mon State.

“I will have to try hard to be equal,” she said, acknowledging the extra responsibility attached to the role. “I will also be able to do more on women’s affairs.”

An NLD veteran since 1988, Tin Ei’s first parliamentary campaign was contesting the 1990 election, but she lost to a candidate from the Mon National Democratic Front.

Now a lawyer with 35 years experience practicing law in Mon State, Tin Ei hopes to bring about legal sector reform through the regional parliament. She is currently reviewing the laws enacted by the state’s previous legislature and assessing why others did not pass.

This term, she hopes to put forward legal measures that will encourage “peace of mind and less worry for the public.”

“Law is not for the ruler—the laws must be able to make the public comfortable and protect their bodies and their lives,” she said.

Min Min Oo, representing the NLD for Belin constituency, will serve as deputy speaker of the Mon State Parliament which will feature six female lawmakers, all from the NLD.

Nyan Hein, a lower house MP also from Thanbyuzayat Township, has known Tin Ei for over 50 years, and served with her on the executive committee of the NLD in their hometown after the 1988 student uprising.

“Tin Ei is the kind of person who has persistently worked for democracy,” he said.

Tin Ei sees the new government as an opportunity to challenge old political beliefs and practices at all levels. “Changes need to be made in the system, the administrators and in the public mindset. We have to change our mindset, and live in accordance with a democratic system,” she explained.

A native of Thanbyuzayat, Tin Ei moved to the Mon State capital of Moulmein on Tuesday to fully devote herself to parliamentary work for the next five years. As a mother of six grown children, she said her political aspirations had always garnered the support of her family, including her late husband.

“I want to work effectively for the public, and I think I will be more effective through parliament,” she said, adding that she hopes to “bring dignity” to her tenure in the Mon State legislature.

Nyan Hein agreed. “She can do this more effectively than someone who does not know about this kind of work,” he said.