NLD’s Ethnic Nominees Lauded as Step Toward National Reconciliation
By San Yamin Aung 10 March 2016
RANGOON — The National League for Democracy’s (NLD) nominations for the presidency have been commended for promoting national reconciliation.
On Thursday morning, ethnic Burman-Mon Htin Kyaw and ethnic Chin Henry Van Thio were revealed as the NLD’s nominees for the presidency. The two men will be put to a vote in the Union Parliament, along with a nominee from the military, who has not yet been named. The winner will become Burma’s president and the other two will be the vice presidents.
“I am happy and grateful that they nominated an ethnic Chin for the presidency,” said Paw Lian Lwin, former Upper House lawmaker from the Chin National Democratic Party (CNDP).
“We have been forgotten for more than five decades and have become the most underdeveloped area,” he added, referring to Chin State, Burma’s most impoverished.
Paw Lian Lwin said the NLD’s selections would bring greater ethnic unity under the new government, which assumes power in April.
“It is good that we have more ethnic representatives now,” said Sai Leik, spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD). “In the past, both Parliament and the cabinet were one-sided. It should be [diverse] in order to build national reconciliation.”
Ethnic Shan leader Sai Nyunt Lwin, general secretary of the SNLD, had been tipped as a potential choice for vice president, but the NLD put forward an ethnic Chin instead.
“We were never told that they would nominate a candidate from the SNLD for vice president, but what we do know is that Shan people will be included in the cabinet and regional government,” Sai Leik said.
The NLD has appointed ethnic Karen, Arakan, Burman and Kachin as speakers and deputy speakers of Parliament. As for presidential candidates, NLD lawmakers from the Upper House nominated the retired army major Henry Van Thio, who was elected last year to the upper chamber in Chin State’s Thantlang Township. NLD lawmakers from the Lower House nominated Htin Kyaw, whose potential candidacy had been widely speculated.
Following the NLD’s landslide victory in the 2015 general election, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Burma’s new cabinet would include members of other parties and ethnic representatives.
Aung Moe Zaw, chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, said it would be better if the NLD chose leaders from its alliance ethnic parties; however, he still believes the party will lead the country toward national reconciliation and a federal union.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers also put forward two men for the presidency on Thursday. The outgoing Vice President Sai Mauk Kham was nominated in the Lower House and former Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint was nominated in the Upper House.
Presidency and vice posts are unlikely for both men because the USDP won only 42 of 491 seats that were up for grabs in the Union Parliament last year.
“The USDP nominated experienced and qualified people for the presidential election process even though it is a minority in the Parliament,” said Hla Htay Win, former military chief of staff and a sitting USDP Lower House lawmaker. “I assume the NLD nominated qualified people as well.”