Mi Kon Chan comes from a distinguished family in Mon State in eastern Burma. Her father is the vice-chairman of Mon National Party Nai Thet Lwin. Yet she is running for a Lower House seat in the 8 November elections as a representative of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Myanmar Now reporter Phyo Thiha Cho spoke to the former businesswoman – Mi Kon Chan used to run a company distributing cosmetic products from abroad – on the campaign trail in Mon State about why she eschewed her father’s party and her political aspirations.
Question: As the daughter of a Mon political leader, why are you running for the NLD?
Answer: I have not been part of my father’s party from the start. I would assist him when needed. That’s all. I’ve been steadfastly working on the issues concerning Mon people. If we want the country to change, all the ethnic groups should get involved. We are helping to create a federal union. This is not about getting a high position, nor is it also to attack or compete with our own people. We don’t plan to make enemies in the future either.
Q: There are three Mon parties in your state. Are you worried that the ethnic votes will be split among these parties?
A: When you start to have two or three parties, then the votes will start to split and dilute. There would be fewer (elected) Mon representatives. You can only bring about change if you are supporting a party that could form a government. We would be able to bring about change only if you vote for a political party that could stand on the side of the public and form a government in 2015. That’s why I also tell my own Mon people and request them to work for the betterment of the whole country first. If the country prospers, the Mon people will also prosper.
Q: Do you know how many voters there are in your constituency in Paung township in Mon State?
A: According to the latest information we have, there are over 180,000 voters while more than 30,000 voters have migrated overseas.
Q: What would you like to say about those migrants who moved overseas still appearing in the voter list?
A: Most of the families here have their children working or studying overseas. Only the parents are living at home. It is quite worrisome to me that these people who have migrated abroad are included in the voter list here. I explain to the people here that they need to go and report to the elections commission about their family members now in foreign countries and unable to come back home to vote. We reported such cases to the local elections commission. The commission removed some names from the voters list after we reported them and some were transferred to the voter list of their respective Burmese embassies abroad.
Q: Some political parties are conducting political campaigns using religion. Is it also happening in your constituency, Paung Township?
A: Such campaigns can be seen in every corner of the country, especially in remote areas where residents are devoted to their faiths. In those places, some have been canvassing for votes by saying Burma would be dominated by Kalars (a derogatory word for Muslims), and Buddhism would disappear if our NLD win in the elections. I have reminded our supporters to get concrete evidence on such dirty campaigns in my constituency. If we have firm evidence, we will file a lawsuit. I’ve also heard of a smear campaign against me saying my husband is Kalar and that I’m not a Buddhist.
Q: What have you prepared for post-election period?
A: We follow the rules and regulations of the Union Election Commission during our campaign trips. We never defame or smear other political parties or candidates. We try to educate the voters. Whenever we undertake campaign trips, we make sure our members and expenditures are recorded in accordance with UEC guidelines. I hear other parties don’t do the same, but as NLD, everyone’s eyes are on us we need to observe these rules. If the NLD win in the elections, such rules could be used to attack us so we have to follow them strictly.
Q: What are your plans for parliamentary politics in post-election period?
A: We will try to change the political system and the laws. We will try to propose laws that can protect the people. Ensuring ethic rights is also one of our concerns. We will do our best in accordance with the party policies.
Q: NLD gained experience in parliament after the 2012 by-elections. But the party failed to make an impact on issues such as amending the constitution and some laws. What lessons can be learned for the future?
A: NLD won only 5 percent of seats in the parliament after 2012 by-elections. With this tiny fraction of seats, it is not possible to form a government or to get the power. The small number of our MPs could not change Article 436 or 59 (F). If we win a landslide victory to form a government in the 2015 general elections, then we will have the full authority to make changes. People can judge our efforts then.
Q: Do you think you would be able to amend the state constitution if the NLD forms a government?
A: The military plays a crucial role in any effort to amend the constitution. The input of the public is also important in this process. If people seriously demand this, the amendment could be made. We will try the best to reach this goal.