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As one of the co-founders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Tin Oo is a veteran of Burma’s long struggle to end nearly half a century of military rule. A former military man himself, he was the armed forces commander-in-chief until he was purged in 1976 and imprisoned for allegedly withholding information about a coup plot against dictator Ne Win.
As vice-president and then president of the NLD, he endured many more years as a prisoner of the regime that replaced Ne Win in 1988. Now a patron of his party, he spoke to DVB recently about his reaction to the historic handover of power to the NLD, more than 25 years after it first won a landslide electoral victory with a mandate to restore civilian rule.
Q: The NLD is about to assume power for the first time since it was formed in 1988. How do you feel about moment?
A: It is absolutely wonderful to see a transition from military rule to a civilian government elected by the people. The parliament that was long dominated by the military has now become a colourful environment with representatives truly elected by the people and I understood that people are welcoming this with hopeful delight. I know that the successors of the government office are working hard to bring about a significant change within 100 days.
Q: What does the party hope to achieve?
A: As we promised, the NLD must bring about a change. We asked for the people’s vote so that we could form a government that reflects their will. The people did their part by voting for us, and now it is up to the elected representatives to do their jobs and set their priorities on important issues.
Q: It has been a long struggle. How do you feel about the sacrifices that have been made to get the country to this point in its effort to restore peace and democracy?
A: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out that we must remember those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle to achieve what we have today. We owe them our gratitude and must continue working hard and with determination to win the people’s trust.
I would like to say it was worth the struggle. We struggled because we wanted to see a change like this. And from what we can see right now, everything seems to going fairly smoothly. We must do what we can to make it better.
Q: What problems do you foresee going forward?
A: The challenges ahead won’t be easy to deal with. It will take time and patience to change the old ways after decades of military rule. We won’t get an answer just by negatively responding to mistakes whenever we find one.
We have our experience from the past and I would like to urge everyone to remember and take lessons from these experiences. If we want peace, then we must speak and act in a peaceful manner. There will be disagreements and issues but we must find answers to them with patience, in a peaceful manner that best reflects the people’s will.