Kukiforum exclusive interview with Dr. Tint Swe
March 23, 2004: An excerpt from Kukiforum exclusive interview with Dr. Tint Swe, Member of Parliament (MP) from Burma. He is holding the portfolio of Minister for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) –Western Region of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), an exile Burmese government. He is also the Chairperson of National League for Democracy (Liberated Area)/NLD-LA Central Committee. Dr. Tint Swe finished his MBBS from Mandalay medical college in 1972 and was a doctor for 16 years (1972-1988) in different places of Sagaing Division. He resigned from work and contested the 1990 general election from Pale-2 parliamentary constituency as NLD candidate. This interview was made in the United States on March 19, 2004 and lasted for an hour and half. This is a translated version from the original interview in Burmese language.
Kukiforum: Sir, it is nice meeting you here in the US. Can we talk on the political situation in Burma?
Dr. Tint Swe: It’s my pleasure to be here. Sure, we can.
Kukiforum: How do you assess the overall political developments in Burma?
Kukiforum: How do you assess the overall political developments in Burma?
Dr. Tint Swe: Despite some armed ethnic groups reaching ceasefire agreement with the regime, there has not been much significant change in the political development of the country. Hundreds of political prisoners are still languishing in different jails; Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo are held under house arrest and more.
Kukiforum: Why do you think the armed groups enter ceasefire agreements?
Dr. Tint Swe: The reasons could be many. The armed ethnic groups think that it is profitable for them to have ceasefire. And also, interests are not the same among all the opposition groups.
Kukiforum: Do the opposition groups need a unified strategy or need to redraw their strategy?
Dr. Tint Swe: Unified strategy is good in theory, but may not be feasible. There can be different strategies and in this regard, we encourage freedom of choice and expression. We don’t have to redraw strategies, but restructure the existing ones.
Kukiforum: What can you tell us about Depeyin massacre?
Dr. Tint Swe: This incident was a turning point in the political history of modern Burma. It was a premeditated attack on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters. It was a political massacre. The regime’s image is badly tarnished and was a damage control for the regime.
Kukiforum: It has haunted the minds of ethnic minority groups that the majority Burman ethnic group has a concept of chauvinism. How do you react to that?
Dr. Tint Swe: This concept came around in 1947 and is still an existing issue. I would rather say that it is the political egoism of leaders those who are in power (he cites names of Newin and U Nu). Anyway, it has to be changed or done away with.
Kukiforum: As an elected leader, what is your view on establishing a genuine democratic society in future Burma?
Dr. Tint Swe: It is my personal view and also the view of NLD that we need to hold a conference like that of Panglong Agreement in order to come up with a concrete political solution. We all are affected by the existing political problem, which means that there is ineffectiveness in the previous conference, and therefore, we need to alter the method.
Kukiforum: You are aware of the fact that the Kukis also have suffered in the hands of the successive brutal military regimes, particularly during the infamous “Khadawmi Operation of 1967.” Like other minority ethnic groups such as Lahu, Naga, Palaung, Pa-O, Wa, the Kuki people have their own political demands. As a leader, could you comment on the Kukis and their political struggle?
Dr. Tint Swe: He nodded his head as a sign of acknowledging the sufferings and demands of the Kuki people. He, however, was quick to respond by uttering “Majority of the Burmese society do not know about the Kuki people and their struggle.” The MP added, “Historical fact is sentimental desire, it is important how you (Kuki) are powerful, skillful and legitimate; Although one has historical facts, it does not necessarily matter as the future will not be decided by saints; one’s political future depends on power and legitimacy.” Legitimacy means the participation of all parties.
Kukiforum: Presently, there are 7 states and 7 divisions in Burma. Knowing the fact that some ethnic groups including the Kukis want their own states to be created in future Burma, what is your reaction?
Dr. Tint Swe: No solution is perfect so far; we have to work out the best solution. National League for Democracy (NLD) stand has been clear that we are not adamant to the idea of 7 states and 7 divisions. As I mentioned before, we need 1947 Panglong Agreement like conference to deliberate all these issues. This has been the stand of NLD.
Kukiforum: Considering that Burma is a democratic country in the near future, what form of democratic government will be the best?
Dr. Tint Swe: This question has been debated extensively. Citing various international theories, different people have different opinions. Some people like parliamentary form of government, while others prefer the US type presidential form of democracy. Some people want a centralized government, while others like a decentralized government. In this regard, the NLD in 1990 proposed for parliamentary democracy, whereas the military regime wants to centralize power. At this point, federal or state constitution or any convention is not feasible. The future form of Burmese government shall be decided by all (ethnic groups, NLD & the military) after sitting together to draw the country’s constitution.
Kukiforum: Burma changed to Myanmar and Rangoon to Yangon. What do you think the reasons for that?
Dr. Tint Swe: They (the military regime) are doing what is not necessary. They wanted to throw away the ideas of colonial rulers who gave the former names. We do not agree to it.
Kukiforum: What is NLD stand on the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)/ the militry junta seven-step “Road Map” for democracy?
Dr. Tint Swe: The NLD stand is that there should be a political dialogue comprising the NLD, ethnic representatives and the military regime. We reject the road map as it does not include NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi. Any plan which excludes the two is unacceptable to us. Several opinions have cropped up to bring solution to the political crisis in Burma. So far, 13 ethnic groups have entered ceasefire agreements with the regime believing that it is the right direction. There are also many observers and scholars who believe that the opposition parties should soften their stand and attend the convention convened by the regime. We do appreciate everyone’s opinions, however, NLD cannot accept anything that will nullify the mandate of the people in the 1990 general elections.
·U Nu was the first Prime Minister of independent Burma.
Newin was the military leader who seized power in 1962 military coup.
Panglong Agreement was the agreement that shaped the Union of Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the General Secretary of NLD, and was the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate.
NLD won 392 parliamentary seats out of the total 485 constituencies across the country in 1990 general elections.
SPDC is the present military regime of Burma. Formerly, it was known as State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).