Ko Nay Phone Latt knows quite a bit about what happens when politics and technology collide. He’s a third-generation National League for Democracy member – now running on the party’s ticket to take a seat in the Yangon Region Hluttaw – whose early brushes with activism include joining the 1988 uprising as an eight-year-old. He was sentenced to 20 years’ prison in 2008 after bloggers used his internet cafes to get news out about the 2007 protests, but was released as part of a mass amnesty in January 2012. Here, he speaks to Catherine Trautwein about Myanmar’s changes and how social media will impact the November 8 election.

In an interview with Shanni News conducted last last week, U Saw Win Tun, the leader of the Red Shan (Taileng) and Northern Shan Ethnics Solidarity Party discussed the challenges faced by ethnic Red Shan parties when competing against larger and better funded parties.

International IDEA has been supporting the UEC through the pre-election period spreading the message of the importance of checking the voter list and voting. They have supplied radio broadcasts, in eight languages, and a cartoon programme for national TV broadcast.

The Myanmar Center for Inclusive Development (MCID) is a local civil society organization providing training, information, resources and services in support of equal rights for those in Burma who live with disabilities.


Myanmar’s firebrand Buddhist monk Wirathu has openly endorsed President Thein Sein’s ruling party in the Nov. 8 general election, saying Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party was “full of themselves” and unlikely to win the vote.

Trevor Wilson was Australia’s ambassador to Burma from 2000 to 2003, a period in which the military junta’s grip of power seemed absolute. The generals had successfully crushed two student protests in 1996 and 1998, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest twice, the second time after a junta-created organisation attacked her convoy, and every single piece of news, song lyrics or movie script had to undergo censorship.

Nineteen ethnic armed groups attended a summit of ethnic armed organizations held in Thailand late last month, at which seven of them, including the influential Karen National Union (KNU), agreed to sign a long-sought nationwide ceasefire accord with the government. The rest have opted not to sign the agreement at this time, however, pending the inclusion of all ethnic armed groups seeking to be signatories.

Thalun Zaung Htet: Welcome to Dateline Irrawaddy. The final voter lists for Nov. 8 Election were released and put on display for two weeks to Sept. 27. The final voter lists were however riddled with errors and political parties claim that those errors were deliberately created by the Union Election Commission (UEC). We’ll be discussing if the coming election will be free and fair given that voter lists are incorrect. Joining me are U Zin Aung, chairman of Democracy Party for Myanmar New Society and Lower House candidate for Kyauktan Township in Rangoon, as well as Irrawaddy editor Ko Htet Naing Zaw. I’m Irrawaddy Burmese editor Thalun Zaung Htet.


Seven ethnic armed groups, including the powerful Karen National Union (KNU), have agreed to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government, calling into question whether the accord is truly “nationwide.” Several stakeholders in the peace process have adamantly demanded that the pact be all-inclusive, extending to a number of armed groups that are still in active conflict with the Burma Army, as well as a handful of others that are not viewed as eligible by government negotiators.

Nang Mya Oo is one of 24 female candidates from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), who will be competing for a State Assembly seat in Taunggyi Township Constituency No. 1 in the 8 November general election.

Trevor Wilson was Australia’s ambassador to Myanmar from 2000 to 2003, a period in which the military junta’s grip of power seemed absolute. The generals had successfully crushed two student protests in 1996 and 1998, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest twice, the second time after a junta-created organisation attacked her convoy, and every single piece of news, song lyrics or movie script had to undergo censorship.

Nationalist monk U Wirathu, known across the globe for his fundamentalist and often anti-Muslim rhetoric, was among a small group of Buddhist leaders to meet with a major figure of Burma’s opposition party this week in Mandalay. Tin Oo, patron of the National League for Democracy (NLD), visited Burma’s second largest city on Wednesday to introduce the party’s candidates in advance of a Nov. 8 general election. While in town, Tin Oo visited the Kantatkone Masoeyein Monastery, where he met with a selection of the city’s religious leaders to pay his respects and discuss topical matters.

With more than 90 political parties expected to compete in Burma’s general election on Nov. 8, The Irrawaddy is reaching out to the leadership of the major parties and notable regional contenders to find out how they plan to contest, which issues they will emphasize and what challenges they face in this crucial election year.

Businessperson U Khin Hlaing is no stranger to controversy. A well-known entrepreneur, he currently sits on Yangon City Development Committee, but spoke to Zay Yar Lin about throwing his hat into the ring to sit in the Pyithu Hluttaw from Yangon’s Kyeemyindaing township. Known as an outspoken politician, he was vocal in opposing four property developments near Shwedagon Pagoda earlier in 2015.

What are the prospects for developing the local economy and encouraging foreign investment after the election?

Speaking from a businessperson’s point of view, Myanmar needs to make many changes from its current situation. Foreign investment entering Myanmar depends on political stability and strong economic policy set by the new government. But the government also needs to protect the interests of locals when foreign investment enters, as well as the foreign investment.

The new government needs to be a government that can make good laws to protect both sides, and implement better policies to help the business sector develop. If not, foreign direct investment or anyone else entering Myanmar will see losses – and local businesspeople also will as well.

Businesspeople have been saying in seminars that Myanmar’s economy is slowing, and business is not in a good condition at the moment. Many are blaming this on the election. Is this right?

All people know the business situation was good from 2010 to 2013, with the current government taking office in 2010, but the situation deteriorated a little in 2014 and 2015. Unsuccessful projects are beginning to appear when the government reached its third and fourth year, though there was success until the third year. There has been currency speculation, based on the government’s moves in business.

Everyone knows the current economic situation is slowing. To recover, it is necessary there is political stability as well as other facts. But it is a bit too early to say exactly what the main facts are to recover the situation. We will be able to see these more clearly when the new government takes office in 2016.

If you are elected to the hluttaw, what is your first priority regarding economic development, as an experienced businessperson?

It is necessary to have political stability as well as rule of law to develop the economy. Laws need to be steadfast and applied without exception, and legal action must be taken on offenders. If everyone follows the rules and regulations, there is no doubt the country’s economy will be successful. But there needs to be mutual trust between the government and the people. The government needs to be a real government that is happy to work for the interests of people, as well as creating fair economic competition.

The state needs to also protect the interests of both employers and employees. These cases can only be successfully pursued when the laws are stable. If not, don’t think the economy will be better when a new government takes power.

Election campaigns like to say that “change” is needed. What kind of change? What would people like to see?

This is a difficult situation. But people always hope for something better, regardless as to whether it is a new government. People hope for the best when a leader takes office. People should continue with their work whatever government takes office.

A state needs to create management, a taxation system and a social security net … but the main core is to depend on oneself. So people need to select [a politican] who supports them. From my point of view, I would like people to emphasise the municipal election rather than the upcoming general election.

What kind of challenges do you face as you contest the election?

I have no particular challenge with the election, but I am busy with work as a [YCDC official]. As you know, this is a busy job, and it leaves me with little time to canvass voters.

I will pursue my strategies … I don’t canvass too much to get votes. If I am selected, I won’t stop as a hluttaw representative. If I am not included as a decision-maker, I will come back to contest the Yangon City Development Committee election in February 2016, if I don’t believe the current hluttaw. I don’t want to waste my time just saying words.

I understand there are more than 90 political parties contesting the upcoming election. As a well-known person, how will you contest the election as an independent, without joining a political party?

In all the elections I have contest – 2010, 2012 and 2015 – I have done so as an independent candidate, as it allows voters to vividly see the ability of a person. Independent candidates are under the influence of the people, not a political party. People know I stand by the people.
I didn’t become an independent because I was rejected by a party. I chose to be an independent candidate to contest Kyeemyindaing township in the Pyithu Hluttaw.

Regarding my performance, people can see that I have done a lot in the last six or seven months since I was elected as a YCDC member.

On the question of voting for local candidates or political parties, which do you think is right?

Both are right. From the side of the political party, it has the benefit of being able to establish a government – but we don’t know the quality of a person. I don’t want to see a situation where parliamentarians just raise their hands in the hluttaw along with everyone else.

While there should be different views in a political party, all need to follow the path that their party sets.

Moreover, political party leaders need to allow for freedom of thought among their followers and open up ways to develop their performance.

It is also very difficult to remove a person from a political party if his or her quality deteriorates when reaching the hluttaw. Though it is easy to remove a person from a political party, it is difficult to remove a person from parliament. So, the answer of whether voters should select the candidate or the party is up to the voter. But, for me, selecting a person is right.

Thein Nyunt, a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) for two decades, was elected to Union Parliament in 2010 for the National Democratic Force (NDF), following an NLD boycott of the poll. The following year, Thein Nyunt and two others split from the NDF, forming the New National Democracy Party (NNDP).

Burma is fast becoming a popular travel destination for both tourists and businesspeople, from Asia and further afield. Its growing aviation industry is undergoing a rapid transformation as more routes now connect the country with regional and international hubs to which access was once relatively limited.

Aung Thu, a former political prisoner and a labour affairs expert at the 88 Generation and Open Society, is one of the 323 independent candidates contesting Myanmar’s November 8 general elections. He is running for an Upper House seat in Mandalay Region’s eastern constituency, which comprises Mogoke and several other townships.

Tuan Cer Sung, better known as Cheery Zahau, was born in Sagaing Region to ethnic Chin parents. Her teacher father instilled in her a ‘can do’ spirit and after high school she started working for a Chin women’s group operating in Mizoram, along the India-Burma border.

Three ethnic Mon political parties—the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP), the Woman’s Party (Mon) and the Mon National Party (MNP)—will be contesting the Nov. 8 election in eastern Burma’s Mon State. Alongside them, however, will be a number of independent ethnic Mon candidates campaigning on the grounds that they will serve the interests of the minority. (more…)

On this week’s edition of Dateline, the NLD’s Aung Naing Tun and the Arakan National Party’s Htoo May discuss young candidates contesting the Nov. 8 election.

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