KSPP Vice Chair: Vote for Ethnic Political Parties

Saturday, November 8, 2020

The Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP) has outlined its policy that it will form a coalition government with other ethnic political parties if they win enough seats in Burma’s general election on Sunday.

Their party platform includes peace dialogue, a permanent halt to the Myitsone hydropower dam project in Kachin State, the promotion of ethnic rights, and a commitment to building a federal Union in the country.

NMG spoke to KSPP Vice Chairperson 2 Gumgrawng Awng Hkam about the implementation of this vision if his party is successful in the November 8 polls.

Can you tell us about KSPP’s implementation plan if you win a majority of seats in your constituencies in the general election?

Peace won’t be restored if we do not implement it. The USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] won in 2010. They could not restore peace in country. The NLD [National League for Democracy] won in 2015. They could not restore peace in the country, either. Nothing has changed. That’s why we will focus on the issue of peace if we win the election. We will negotiate with all armed organizations, then we will implement the peace process on a path through Parliament. If we do not hold discussions with armed organizations, peace will not be restored in this country. Through Parliament, we will hold discussions with all stakeholders including armed organizations and political parties.

The resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is one of the KSPP’s election campaign promises. How will you do this?

We will hold discussions with both IDPs and armed organizations. Then we will hold discussions with local people. If we won’t discuss this with all stakeholders, we won’t be able to implement it. […] This resettlement project should be a safe project. IDPs need to return to their original areas.

The KSPP will continue to oppose and try to halt the Myitsone hydropower dam project permanently. How will you stop this dam?

We especially need to reveal the truth about what the government has agreed, such as the financial situation, and so on. After that, we have to hold discussions with the respective country involved [Editor’s Note: this is a reference to China]. The important thing is that we need to stop this Myitsone hydropower dam project. This is one of our main objectives. It does not only affect our party, but it affects all of the people. We do not like this Myitsone dam project, so we will try to stop it.

There are also mega-development projects being implemented in Kachin State such as industrial zones. What is your party’s stance on this issue?

We have opposed mega-development projects in Kachin State before. Our country has yet to restore peace. Our country has yet to be a genuine federal Union. Our country has no self-determination rights. Therefore, we oppose mega-development projects. At the moment, we do not accept any mega-development projects.

Among these mega-development projects are ones that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes Kachin State. What’s the KSPP’s stance on BRI projects?

At the moment, we cannot build a federal Union. We do not agree with these projects until we have a genuine federal Union. We need to restore peace. All ethnic states must have their own state constitutions. After we build a genuine federal Union, we should discuss whether to pursue mega-development projects or how to build a new ‘silk road.’ We have to discuss with the people about this issue. After that, the people will make a decision whether to build these [BRI] projects. At the moment, we do not agree with it.

There are many domestic migrant workers in Kachin State. What will the KSPP do regarding the rights of indigenous communities?

First, we need to hold discussions about it in Parliament. Then we need to put it in the Constitution. If we don’t put indigenous people’s rights in the Constitution, we cannot get any official legal protection. We have to put economic, social welfare, education, health and land issues in the Constitution to protect indigenous people’s rights.

In line with the issue of land, Kachin State has many tissue culture banana plantations which have created land disputes. The Kachin State government points out that they receive tax benefits from these plantations. How would you address this problem?

We need to investigate whether the land is official. We need to review all processes. Does this banana plantation benefit local people? Do pesticides affect the environment? We need to research it. After that, we need to assess whether to allow the banana plantations in the area. We have to discuss it in Parliament. Currently, the banana plantations don’t benefit local people.

How would the KSPP create jobs for local people?

This is connected to the regional economy. Our state needs to have agribusiness, trade, livestock, etc. We also need border trade. We need to have domestic production. We need to distribute domestic products in the domestic market. Even though we cannot have big enterprises, we need to have medium-sized enterprises. We need to have small enterprises. If we start with big enterprises, our people may not go along with it, and then we cannot protect our people. We have enough land. We need to use it. Another thing is natural resources—we need to extract natural resources systematically. Then we need to invest our capital in the education and healthcare sectors. Our health and education systems need to be improved. We need to promote small private businesses, too.

Last question: why should people vote for the KSPP?

The 2020 political transition is very important for Burma. Political parties from central Burma do not have the capacity to move the country forward during a political transition. The ethnic political parties need to cooperate and then work together with political parties from central Burma. We need to build a genuine federal Union and we need to make peace. With cooperation, we need to change the Constitution. If we cannot change the Constitution, we need to draw up a new Constitution. That’s why people who live in ethnic states need to cast their votes for ethnic political parties. Ethnic political parties need to win the election. I ask people to vote for ethnic political parties.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.