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Interview

Dr. Tint Swe

Burmese dissident leader Dr. Tint Swe is an elected Member of Parliament from Pale constituency. He is currently Prime Minister's Office minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) and also a Central Committee member of the NLD/LA. He is residing in New Delhi since December 1990. Mithu Choudhury of indigenousherald.com had an opportunity to interview Dr Swe.  

With leading political party like the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi out of the Election fray having no role to play in it; do you think that the poll results will have any valid standing?
No, not at all! It looks an election but extremely flawed. All settings are meticulously and deceitfully planned. The political parties and representatives of 1990 election, which was real choice of the people, are restricted to contest. The constitution which holds all keys for democracy is blunder. The election is exclusive, unfair, and undemocratic and will not make any good change at all. This is merely to legalize military dictatorship.

Do you see the elections to be fair or will the SPDC manipulate and rig the whole process?
Definitely yes! The regime has learned the lesson of the 1990 election and will unquestionably not do it free and fair this time. The constitution drafting process took more than 14 years and that excluded the NLD which is true representative of the people. The referendum was intentionally held in the middle of cyclone Nargis which killed 140,000 people. The election commission issued so-called election laws which are utterly undemocratic. The laws meant for one person, Aung San Suu Kyi not to be a member of a political, not to be a candidate and not to be a voter. The law also made rich-men election because in such a poor country a candidate needs to spend $5,000. The constituencies are based not on population but on Township and the junta created so-called townships where only they and their cronies reside. The upcoming parliament will be filled with 25% by uniformed, more than 50% by junta's own party USDP, nearly 25% by NUP which is the party of disgraced dictator General Ne Win.

Rebel group like the United Wa State Army has declared that it will allow no campaigning etc in its territory. Your Comments. What kind of role do you think the different rebel groups of Burma will play in the coming polls?
Wa (UWSA) is a powerful armed group on Sino-Burma border area. The militarily muscular and politically strong ethnic groups are against the military's roadmap. Apart from defensive fighting, offensive battles or disturbances by arms cannot be expected around the election. However post-election months before new administration took the chair military actions upon armed groups are likely. However it is up to China's approval for groups along that border. All major ethnic parties and groups want national reconciliation which is also objective of the NLD.

Speaking overall, what are the concerns that you can rise today regarding the immediate as well as far reaching consequences of this polls?
The polls will bring new names and new dressed peoples ruling with the same old polities. It will be interesting when Aung San Suu Kyi was released a couple of days after election. She will guide the new phase of struggle. The democracies around the world except the largest India are extending more practical support to the NLD. There are threats for the junta e.g. crime against humanity at the UN. The regime as well as the new government has to resolve ethnic armed resistance. They are not terrorist or money-making outfits. Without political solution they will not go away. So the struggle will go on.

Till now, in the run up to the polls how have you found neighbors like India, China as also other Asian, European countries and USA making an assessment of the coming polls or are they just mute spectators and maintaining their neutrality? Are any of them sharing your concerns?
With regards to 2010 election China gave clean chit. India is quiet. ASEAN nations do not express openly. The western countries are critical. The UN said about concerns. I am not surprised. The people of Burma lost hope from international community. The next generation of Burmese people will take base on this observation who is who.

In the coming polls what will be the position and role of the huge Burmese citizens like you who have been living in exile outside the country? Is there any chance that this sizeable population will be able to exercise their franchise? If not, then are you trying to mobilize any pressure from the International community for making it possible?
We are on boycott campaign. We tell the ordinary population that the election is not the real change because of the 2008 constitution. We urge them to stay away from polls as permitted by the election laws. We know we can't stop the election but we are doing ground works for post-2010 fight. We continue telling the world why that election is unacceptable. We continue pressuring on the junta like call for UN investigation.

Will the polls have any form of neutral observers / UN intervention to see to it that it is fairly conducted?
No. The regime will do all possible as well as impossible tricks. Look at announcement of the result after referendum for the constitution. Votes were rigged. No vote counting in public and in the districts. The commission just announced. So election results will be more or less the same. A few non-junta candidates who won could be invalidated. Those acts cannot be seen by domestic and internal observers. Maybe a few will be allowed at strictly selected sites.

Since you are in India and the Burma Center Delhi is now an accepted and established body, what kind of role /intervention/support do you expect from the Indian people as well as the media, particularly that of the NE Region (which actually shares boundary with Burma) at this moment?
The NE is important. India is very important. Neither of us can go away from each other whether one likes it or not today. So mutual understanding, mutual friendship and mutual trust are the interests for both sides. I am not happy with current Burma policy of India. At the same time, I never lose hope of India's U-turn. The NE is strategic. I see the plight and concerns of NE are not shared thoroughly by Delhi. I don't see tangible positive outcome for NE region out of Look East policy but there are visible counterproductive effects suffered by NE. E.g. there was no anti-India armed groups from NE bases in Burma before the Look East policy. India as well as Burmese pro-democracy movement lost Moreh. The border trading base shifted to Burma side. NE insurgent(s) received order from Burma army to wipe Burmese activists out of Moreh. However I am pleased with local peoples of NE whose understanding and support is taken more seriously.

You are yourself a Member of Parliament and one of the very senior political activists of Burma. Today what kind of political future do you see for yourself, given the present scenario?
The struggle for democracy is a long battle. Our elders have done their job and the next generation will carry on. I, being a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's party NLD have resided in India for almost 2 decades. My human nature does not like Delhi. But I am investing my life for the sake of genuinely good Indo-Burma long term relationship. I am learning from India. I am witnessing India's role for Burma's struggle. One day I may be able to report to NLD leadership and the people of Burma how India treated me and my colleagues. Thanks to India for letting our movement alive.

Mr. Mithu Choudhury is a senior journalist based in Guwahati, Assam.  

October 2010