By Khaing Min Nyo | DMG

The Arakanese lawmaker Daw Htoot May is preparing to contest the 2020 general election, but her situation is an unusual one: The Arakan National Party to which she previously pledged allegiance is not allowing her to resign from its ranks to contest with her preferred (and rival) political party, the Arakan League for Democracy. So she’s switching things up this year, opting not to contest the seat she currently holds in the Amyotha Hluttaw and instead running for the Yangon Region Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister post as an independent candidate.  

DMG spoke to her recently about her past, present and future political life, and the upcoming vote, which is scheduled for November 8.  

Question: First, please briefly explain why you decided to run for Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister of the Yangon Region government? 

Answer: Well, the main thing is that I have no chance to contest the upcoming election as a candidate of the [Arakan League for Democracy] party. So, I have decided to compete as an independent candidate. I have a strong desire to work for Arakanese people and Arakan State in the parliament for the coming five years. 

I worked as an independent member of parliament for almost five years. So, I have a lot of challenges to work as an independent MP in the next term. That’s why I decided to contest the election for the ethnic affairs minister post. 

Q: We’ve heard that U Zaw Aye Maung, who has served as Minister for Arakanese Ethnic Affairs under two governments’ terms, will run for the seat again. How are you preparing for it as a new candidate? 

A: I hope Arakanese people will know what I have done for them in parliament with the five-year term, and my political stance. As I am preparing to contest for Minister of Arakanese Ethnic Affairs in the Yangon Region government, I have both weaknesses and good points. The current minister is a member of a political party. He worked for the seat for 10 years. So, I will have to try hard for everything. 

What I decided when I first got involved in political affairs is that I would never do it for my own interest by taking advantage of political power. It is about my political dignity. I hope people will vote for me based on that dignity. Additionally, I am a young woman. And I expect young people want a young lawmaker. 

Q:  If you are elected Arakanese Ethnics Affairs Minister, what will you focus on? 

A: If I am elected Arakanese Ethnics Affairs Minister, I will mainly work for the education of Arakanese people in Yangon. Job opportunities for them will follow. I will also work for the required sectors in Arakan State and Arakanese people in Yangon. I can currently further culture and literature by establishing the Arakanese Youth Center. I will work on these activities by making plans for the coming five years. I will try to perform better than previous ministers. 

Q: Under the 2008 Constitution, ethnic affairs ministers do not have a strong mandate. So, do you think you can do more as an ethnic affairs minister? 

A: The duties of a lawmaker and an ethnic affairs minister are different. But my political spirit is the same in any seat.  

I believe if I am in a tight situation, I need to create a plan to deal with that situation. Ethnic affairs ministers have many chances to try hard for people, in line with the law, by their own ingenuity. It depends on the quality of the minister.  

Q: You have been able to express the voice of Arakanese people in parliament. So, do you think your efforts have borne fruit in reality? 

A: To be sure, I am not satisfied. In parliament, the issues raised by ethnic minorities cannot be discussed, let alone acted upon. So, I did not see the results I should have gotten, although I tried hard. I believe I am dutiful as a lawmaker. I need to keep working for our people despite being unsuccessful. 

Q: What do you want to say regarding the remarks of some people from certain political circles? They say Daw Htoot May will contest the election as an independent candidate because she is a member of the Arakan League for Democracy and all people know her problem with the Arakan National Party and that she will have more political dignity if she does not contest the election at all. 

A: I need to keep working for my political dignity. If I stop, those who want to stop my political involvement are satisfied. It is the right time to stand for Arakanese people by working for them. As an Arakanese woman who wants to work for the interests of Arakanese people, I will contest for the election for Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister. I will contest the election to work for Arakanese people. I have dreams for young Arakanese people. I am worried about being far from politics. So, I decided to contest the election for my political dignity. 

Q: What more do you want to say? 

A: If I may be frank, I want to keep working in the parliament in the next term as a lawmaker. I want to express the situation in Arakan State, representing Arakanese people. In order to work for the interests of Arakanese people and to establish human resources with young people that would need to work for Arakan State when federalism is adopted in the state, I decided to contest the election for the post of Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister. And, I want to work for Arakanese people in Arakan State with the help of Arakanese people in Yangon Region. I want people to understand where I’m coming from in contesting the election for the post of Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister in Yangon region.

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