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Contesting a seat in Mon state capital Moulmein for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is incumbent State Minister for Civil Development Dr. Toe Toe Aung.
A native of Moulmein, he graduated from Yangon University of Medicine (2) in 1996 and worked with the Mon State Health Department until 2010, when he was elected to the state legislature.
In an interview with Myanmar Now reporter Phyo Thiha Cho at the party’s regional headquarters in Moulmein, or Mawlamyine as the city is officially known, the 45-year-old former medical practitioner discussed his campaign challenges and offered some frank insight into the links between the nationalist Ma-Ba-Tha movement and the USDP in Mon State.
Question: What are the challenges for you as a USDP state minister seeking re-election on 8 November?
Answer: I have been in close touch with people in my constituency for more than four years, since the time when our party was still a civilian organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association [the predecessor of the USDP]. I will keep working for the welfare of people, either as an MP or as a member of government. I have good relations with the people, so it doesn’t matter whether I am a minister when I contest in the upcoming elections.
Q: How is your campaign going and what you are promising to voters?
A: Since campaigning began, I have visited many villages and wards. I conducted campaigns with the help of my core supporters.
As I am a native of Moulmein, I have a stronger interest in the development of our city than many of my counterparts. I also promised I will keep on working for the welfare of the public in the future, as I served for the people even before I was an MP.
Q: Recently, some USDP members attended the Ma-Ba-Tha rally in Moulmein to celebrate the passage of the ‘race and religion protection’ laws. Do you think it is appropriate to mix politics and religion?
A: Supporters of these laws include supporters of our party or other parties. Joining this event is their right and choice. I do not see the Ma-Ba-Tha as connected to a political party. It can be regarded as a separate group, while political parties have their own policies. Complaints on this issue by other political parties will be decided on by the Union Election Commission in accordance with electoral rules and regulations. But we will not file any complaint as long an issue does not disturb our party’s campaign. Our party is not directly collaborating with the Ma-Ba-Tha.
Q: Are some of your party members involved with the Ma-Ba-Tha movement?
A: Maybe. Our party has about 30,000 members in Moulmein. We have no authority to prohibit them or urge them not to join with Ma-Ba-Tha. This is their own right.
Q: What is your opinion on political parties that are campaigning with a focus on the so-called ‘protection of national interest’?
A: I accept any type of campaign that highlights the welfare of our country and people. So I don’t want to give comment on this.
Q: How is the campaigning now different from the campaign ahead of the 2010 polls?
A: We had no campaign experience in 2010, but we won. We are now using our experience in 2015.
Q: If you are re-elected, what laws would you propose in the Mon State parliament or government?
A: There are some flaws in municipal law passed by the parliament, especially there is a weakness in the cooperation with the public. I would like to see more chances for the public to contribute in development affairs. So I want to amend municipal law.
Read more on the 2015 Burmese election