Interview: Aung Min Hopes to Shift from Peace Talks to Kayah Development

myanmar-aung-min-press-conference-march31-2015.jpg Aung Min, vice chairman of the Union Peace Working Committee, talks to the media after the seventh nationwide cease-fire agreement meeting at the Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon, March 31, 2015.

Aung Min, a minister of the President's Office and chairman of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center, sat down with Khin Maung Soe of RFA's Myanmar Service to discuss his aims as he runs for a seat in Shartaw Township in Kayah State in Nov. 8 general elections. The 65-year-old retired army major general and former rail transportation minister hopes the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) will lead to the return of refugees and bring sustained development to Kayah.

RFA: What are the needs of people in your constituency, Shartaw Township of Kayah State?

AUNG MIN: Kayah State was an unstable state. I served there for many years and worked for peace. Since we signed a peace agreement in 2012, we haven't had any more fighting in Kayah State. Kayah State has less development because of the instability, and I want to work for this state to enjoy development.

RFA: If you win the election, what will you do for people in this region?

AUNG MIN: Shartaw is behind in everything, as it is a landlocked area. I want to bring development to this town. There are many people who left their homes because of instability, staying at some refugee camps. They will return home when the place gets stability. To make that happen, authorities need to clear land mines, build houses, support their survival and create jobs for them. I want to work on these things for them. I am thinking in advance about the time they will return to their homes. Doing these things is related to creating peace and I feel I can do it (as I am one who is working for peace).

RFA: What is the latest on the peace process?

AUNG MIN: We are signing the NCA in the first week of October. It is my job to arrange the NCA signing ceremony and invite ethnic leaders. Only two or three ethnic armed groups, those who are not ready to sign the NCA, will not come on that day. Most of them will sign the NCA. Signing the NCA is the starting point of national reconciliation. For me, working on peace is the first priority, and contesting in the election is the second priority.

RFA: Which groups will sign the NCA? What have you planned for the others?

AUNG MIN: There will be more than ten groups out of 16 groups ion the NCA signing day. We open the door for the rest of the groups. They can contact us to sign NCA whenever they are ready. They can attend political dialogue after signing the NCA. We have a Preliminary Ceasefire, then Comprehensive Ceasefire. We made bilateral agreements with some groups as a preliminary ceasefire. The groups that are not invited to sign the NCA are the ones with which we haven’t done even bilateral agreements. They have to pass this bilateral agreement step first, then sign the NCA accord. All agreements have rules that require going forward step by step.

RFA: When are you campaigning for election?

AUNG MIN: I have to work on signing the NCA through the first week of October. I will be in my constituency for campaigning before November, during mid- or late October, I guess.

RFA: You will contest as an independent and you have been working on the peace pact full time. Won’t your chances of winning the election be harmed because of all the time spent working for peace?

AUNG MIN: People are more educated than before. They will know who they have to select. If they select me, I have to work for them. If not, I will continue my peace work.

RFA: What do you want to say to people, including the people in Shartaw?

AUNG MIN: I want to say three things: 1, I will try to work on having peace in the country; 2, I will work to bring development to Shartaw; 3, I will work on national reconciliation, which is my major objective.

Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar.

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