New VP Henry Van Thio: ‘If a duty is on my shoulders, I’ll do my best’

U Henry Van Thio, 58, was nominated last week as the Amyotha Hluttaw’s candidate for the vice-presidency. The National League for Democracy member was elected in November to Chin State-3 constituency in what is also known as the House of Nationalities. Almost completely unknown, even among politicians in his home state, the ethnic Chin Christian lawmaker was an army officer and employee of the Ministry of Industry before joining the NLD. He spoke to Frontier’s Mratt Kyaw Thu in Nay Pyi Taw on March 10.

How long have you known you would be the Upper House vice-presidential nominee?

I’ve known for the last three or four days, but I can’t say the exact date. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi offered me the position.

How did you feel when you were offered the position?

I was really surprised at that time. I didn’t expect that position; I was just expecting to do the usual work as a usual MP for my constituency. Then when they called me and asked my desire to serve as vice-president, I was very excited.

How has your family reacted?

Since I was elected as an MP, my family was proud of me and they made me strong. They’re encouraging me. As our Chin State is much lower (in wealth) than other states and regions, to be involved in this period of history on behalf of my state has made them proud of me.

Are you confident of your ability to serve as a vice-president?

Yes, I’m confident. I believe that if a duty is on my shoulders, I’ll do my best.

What do you want to say about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to select you, a member of an ethnic minority?

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Our party leader doesn’t neglect ethnic nationalities. And it’s not only about Chin State. She’s willing to cooperate with all by holding all hands to serve the state’s duty. I believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is very considerate of ethnic people.

According to the constitution, a vice-president does not have much power. What do you expect to achieve in the role?

I don’t know the extent of what I can do. It will be seen when I do it. So I can’t say it before I do. The power will be shown when it is exercised.

What do you want to accomplish in the realm of ethnic affairs?

There’s no peace in almost every ethnic area. I want to see peace negotiations in these areas. The main issue is peace. Chin State has the lowest growth rate and needs solid solutions to development problems. The main development problem is transportation: it’s the curse of our state. There are so many things to do, but transportation is the main priority.

Do you think it is possible to achieve peace under an NLD government?

I believe so, yes. Our leader is aiming to do that. We can see in the parliament many ethnic people have been appointed to the main positions. It’s a persuasion technique and example of national reconciliation as well, and it is the basic protocol that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been following.

Why did you join the NLD after serving in the Tatmadaw and the civil service?

Our country is on the list of Least Developed Countries. I wanted our country to be a developed country. For that purpose, I believed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD can make improvements. That’s why I joined the NLD.

Will you have a role in negotiations between the NLD and the Tatmadaw?

I can’t say a lot on that issue really, but I wish that for the development of our country, the NLD and the Tatmadaw can cooperate through mutual understanding for the people.

By Mratt Kyaw Thu

By Mratt Kyaw Thu

Mratt is a Senior Reporter at Frontier. He began his career at Unity Weekly Journal in 2010 and focuses on political reporting. In 2017 he won the Agence France-Presse Kate Webb prize for his coverage of ethnic strife in Myanmar.
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