Nearly 1.65 million people in Arakan State are eligible to cast ballots in the 2020 general election, more than 200,000 of whom are first-time voters, according to the Arakan State election subcommission.

With a new generation set to exercise its franchise, DMG reporter Khin Tharaphy Oo recently interviewed several youths in Arakan State about what they are looking for in a candidate this election year. 

Ko Myo Min Thu, Sittwe Township

I’d like to cast a vote for those who can clearly report to the people on the education and economic sectors, and who can reply to queries raised by the people, because I’d like to know about the education and economic sectors as they relate to Sittwe.

With regard to the education sector, I’d like to cast a vote for those who will have the capacity to enhance the education sector, meeting international standards, rather than those who have just a view to build schools and bridges. For example, I’d like to choose candidates who have their own future plans to strive for the improvement of Sittwe University; for youths to pursue political science and those who would like to make utmost efforts to enable the youth to learn social sciences and other developing subjects in Arakan State.

I’d like to ask candidates how to improve the transport sector, which plays a key role in the development of the economic sector in Arakan State. In fact, it is necessary to develop various sub-sectors in the economic sector with the assistance of international organisations. I’d like to ask them how to improve these sectors.

For another point, the candidate must be transparent. The candidate must firmly adopt and show the policies for their work processes. I refuse to cast a vote for candidates who don’t have the confidence to openly clarify their policies.

Ma Mrat Thu Naing, Ponnagyun Township

I’d like to explain my base motivations for casting votes. Mainly, I review our country, Myanmar. In this regard, internal armed conflicts have been happening for many years. These internal armed conflicts are based on many root causes.

Moreover, our country lags behind the development of other countries. Actually, Arakan State is standing in second position to be the least developed state of a least-developed country.

So I’d like to cast votes for those who have brave responsibility and accountability, who can actually do what they say. When some candidates become MPs with authority, they change their stripes. Some MPs don’t take responsibility or accountability for promises they made before taking power. 

For another point, now most MPs are shouting about the peace process, federalism, equality, national reconciliation and rights for everybody on equal terms, but internal armed conflicts are continuing. Mainly, [candidates] should not forget about efforts for development. Only when we can carry out development tasks will societal standards improve.  

Ko Thaw Zin Tun, Taungup Township 

Being a first-time voter, I would like to cast votes for the candidates who will promote education and carry out developmental tasks in the region.

Regional development is not just about development; it is about managing resources in a systematic way, and includes environmental management. An important point is to accept the views of young people, and I want to choose someone who can work with young people. 

Due to the current political situation in Arakan State, people do not trust the election and the parliamentary landscape. We hope we will be able to elect candidates capable of expressing the voices of Arakanese people.

Kyaw Swar Lin, Manaung Township

We will cast votes for the candidates who can build trust and understanding among different communities in Arakan State at a time when we are currently experiencing armed conflict.

This is not the time for us to quarrel with each other. This is not the time to quarrel with your neighbors. Therefore, if I vote, I will only vote for the candidates who can build better understanding among the communities in Arakan State. I have decided not to cast votes for candidates who spread hatred, rumours and violence against each other in their communities. If such candidates contest the election, I will not vote for them.

I currently live in Yangon. There are some candidates for Yangon Region minister for Arakanese Ethnic Affairs. I am listening to their voices as to whether there is any hate speech in their words or not. If there is hate speech, I will not vote for them. I will vote for the candidates who have the courage to work for the common good, to ensure social harmony.

Ko Phone Pyae Phyo, Sittwe Township

I mainly focus on education. I especially encourage candidates who can put forward proposals to promote education standards in Arakan State.

The lawmakers who were elected in the former quasi-civilian regime in 2010 and the democratically elected government of 2015 were not much interested in visiting the university. I went to meet with the MPs, but I did not get a chance to meet with them.

Nowadays, young people are beginning to understand democracy and they are more focused on candidates who encourage and promote education standards. Especially, a plan to increase the university education budget is a main topic. At present, the University of Computer Studies doesn’t have students’ hostels. I may vote for the candidates who can submit the proposal to build the students’ hostels at the parliament and work closely with the educational staff.

My vote will likely go to the candidates who value environmental conservation, because the pollution levels are very high in Arakan State, including Sittwe Township. We need to establish a systematic waste collection scheme in Sittwe. The township development committee alone cannot tackle the issue. I think I will vote for candidates who have a policy to protect the natural environment in Arakan State.

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