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INTERVIEW: ‘The path ahead won’t be a walk in the park’

Nan Khin Htwe Myint (Photo: DVB)

Nan Khin Htwe Myint, the chairperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Karen State, was today confirmed as the chief minister of her state, along with 12 other senior members of her party. She spoke to DVB’s Naw Noreen shortly after the announcement in parliament that she had been made one of only two female chief ministers in the country’s history.

Question: You have been nominated for the position of chief minister of Karen State. Has it been approved?

Answer: Yes, the regional assembly approved it today, with no objection.

Q: Did the NLD inform you in advance regarding this role?

A: No, but I kind of sensed that it could be me since there are just a handful of people.

Q: How do you plan to serve in this role? What will you do?

A: As you know, Karen State has plenty of things that need to be mended. On the national level, health and education are important issues, but in Karen state, there are various other struggles people are facing. We must work to bring development to our state. We have plans for the future and we need to work out which ones to prioritise. I am hoping to bring about a remarkable change within 100 days.

Q: There are various armed groups in Karen State. Some of these groups have ceasefire agreements with the government and some don’t. What is your plan regarding the armed conflict and the armed organisations in the region during your term as chief minister?

A: Peace is especially important for us in Karen State. Some of the armed groups have reached ceasefire agreements with the government but that’s only some. The rest of the groups are hoping to continue talks with the NLD government. We will speak with them in an honest and friendly manner and attempt to build trust. We know that they don’t want to fight anymore and that they want to join hands in bringing development to Karen State. We welcome their wish for cooperation. Previously, we were only observers [in the ceasefire talks] when we met them, but now we will be counterparts and have our opportunity to speak openly.

Q: What issue will you prioritise on during your term in the office?

A: Peace is important, but we also need to focus on drugs, which are posing a great danger to the youth. This is very tricky to handle. Another thing is [the effect of] el Niño [on the climate] — water shortages are becoming more common here. So while we look to solve long-term issues, we also need to pay attention to more immediate matters.

Q: Do you think you will do a better job that the administration of the previous chief minister?

A: I am confident that I can do everything better than them.

Q: You are one of only two women to be appointed to the position of chief minister in Burma’s political history. What will you do to promote the role and rights of women?

A: I will show [women] what we can do and gradually train them so they will have the courage to stand up and have self-confidence and political awareness. I usually tell them I was just like them in the past, [and that they] can strive to grow strong. Regardless of your gender, if you strive, you can reach your goal and I would like to point this out to my fellow women.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

A: That the path ahead won’t be a walk in the park. We have many challenges and obstacles ahead — some people will try to hinder and slow us down since not everyone wishes for change. There are also people who don’t want change. I would like the people of Karen State to understand this and support the NLD-led government. With a little support from everyone, we will be able to gain momentum and do our job more effectively.