DMG reporter Khin Tharaphy Oo interviewed U Tin Hlaing Win, general secretary of the Kaman National Development Party (KNDP), a minority ethnic political party contesting the 2020 general election.
Question: How many seats will the KNDP field in the election? How are you preparing for it?
Answer: We have arranged to field [candidates] in the election for more than four seats. We have not done any activities overtly for the election because the election campaign has not been announced officially and there are some regulations due to COVID-19. But members of the party are organising people to understand the platform of the party.
Q: Could you tell me the situation of the party in the previous election?
A: As a minority Kaman political party, we contested the elections in 1990, 2010 and 2015, but we did not win because we are a minority ethnic party and some people faced various difficulties to vote as they were not issued ID cards. We contested for seats in the Pyithu and Amyotha Hluttaws in Yangon Region, and we received some votes but did not win.
Q: How have your party’s electoral defeats resulted in other kinds of losses?
A: We have had many losses. Ethnic minorities are so far seeking to reach parliament by establishing political parties. Although we are ethnic nationals, we are ruled by a government and we are oppressed by them. As single-party dictatorship has been preferred since our older generations, we experienced pretty bitter times under military administration. Anyway, a system will change after passing through periods. Under the U Thein Sein administration in 2012, Kaman people became homeless. We did not see any significant activity under the U Thein Sein government. We were neglected; we experienced arbitrary neglect.
However, during the post-U Thein Sein government, we have been faced with similar situations while we have to stay in camps. Under the U Thein Sein government, we became homeless. When the National League for Democracy took office, we lost even our hometown. We have been sent to different places. Responsibility and accountability are essential for a political system.
Q: Why do you think your party didn’t win in any past elections? Is it because of the fact that Kaman is a minority?
A: The population is essential to win an election. It also depends on the policy and performance of the party. The party’s platform should include working for the interests of our own people. But political activities should not be for only Kaman people’s affairs. They should work for the interests of our region and our country. Those who accept and believe in these policies, they will vote for us. That’s why I think the population is not the main obstacle to winning an election.
We are a national race being governed and oppressed as are other national races. The rights of ethnic nationals is only on paper so far. We all have not enjoyed it in reality. So, our party will try to reach parliament because of the situation of being discriminated against, minority or majority.
Q: What do you want to say about the rights of the ethnic minority groups comprising the Arakan national race?
A: The rights of ethnic minorities are diminishing. So, it is necessary to express the voices of minorities loudly in Myanmar’s political sphere.
The vast troubles facing all people in Arakan State, including [ethnic] Mro, Thet, Khami, Daingnet, Maramagri and Arakanese [Rakhine] are the consequence of politics. It is important not to become prey to politics and not to be abandoned. As a national and political task, we should work together to get a solution. Although our party is a minority ethnic party, we are working for both nationalism and politics.
Q: What more would you like to say?
A: All ethnic groups in Arakan State, including the Kaman, hoped for the best after the military administration. We expected that the situation of our state would be better.
Our Kaman people, who are homeless, are now being sent to different places that are not our hometowns. We did not think we would be dishonoured to such an extent. All ethnic groups of the Arakan national race are now taking shelter in refugee camps. So, we want a government that can effectively work and deal with these situations. As we are now being abandoned, we do not have a chance to enjoy our rights. We are suffering. So, I’d like to say we will go forward and are seeking not to be made a scapegoat for politics.