The sweet poetry of victory

The stunning victory of the National League for Democracy has seen the election of party members with a special way with words who might be reflecting on the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword.

A total of 11 poets will represent the NLD in the Union parliament and state and regional assemblies.

They include four poets elected to the Union parliament, three of whom defeated former generals in the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

In the contest for the Pyithu Hluttaw, U Khin Maung Yee defeated the chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, U Htay Oo, in Hinthada Township in Ayeyarwady Region, and U Nyein Thit, who won against Mandalay mayor, U Aung Maung, in the contest for the city’s Mahar Aungmyae Township.

Ko Zay Linn Maung triumphed in Sagaing Region’s Budalin Township, defeating the regional Chief Minister, U Thar Aye, who was unpopular over his role in the crackdown at the Letpadaung copper mine in November 2012 when phosphorous was used against protesters.

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U Aung Kyaw Soe was elected to the Amyotha Hluttw for Kayah State, defeating Minister of the President’s Office, U Aung Min, the government’s chief negotiator in the ceasefire talks, who stood as an independent.

Among the poets elected to state and regional assemblies was U Than Aung, who defeated the USDP’s Daw Khin Than Myint in the race for the Ayeyarwady regional assembly seat of Ngapudaw, the hometown of President U Thein Sein.

“I love poems and I’m addicted to poetry,” said Ko Zay Linn Maung, 34, a doctor, who defeated Sagaing Region Chief Minister U Thar Aye by a crushing 15,000 votes.

He joined the NLD this year and decided to seek selection as a candidate for parliament because he believes the country needs more young, educated MPs to represent his generation.

“It’s because I have worked as a teacher that support the reform the education system and I am confident this will happen under a government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Ko Zay Linn Maung was proud to have been selected as a candidate by the NLD’s Budalin Township executive committee despite strong competition from older members of the party.

“My motivation for wanting to contest the election was to represent the people,” he told Frontier. “I did not want to be an election candidate just to compete against U Thar Aye.”

He said the NLD would embark on a campaign of legislative reform in the next parliament.

“We will amend flawed and outdated laws,” he said, adding that the campaign of legislative reform would be decided by the party’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ko Zay Linn Maung dismissed concerns about what might happen during the transitional period before the handover of power to an NLD government next year.

“I am not worried about it,” he said.

Ko Zay Linn Maung, who was active in the campaign for education reform that resulted in the violent dispersal of protesters at Letpadan in March, has had poems published in leading literary magazines since 2002. He published a book of his poems in August and is planning to launch a monthly newsletter devoted to poetry.

Education reform is also a concern of U Than Aung, 57, a former teacher, who won against the USDP’s Daw Khin Than Myint by 7,000 votes in the contest for the Ayeyarwady regional assembly seat of Hinthada.

“It’s because I have worked as a teacher that support the reform the education system and I am confident this will happen under a government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he told Frontier.

U Than Aung, who graduated with a major in Myanmar literature, has been writing poetry under the pen name Anihtet (Panmawaddy) for about 30 years and is known for his masterpiece “Only one line”, published in leading literary magazine, Shumawa, in 1985.

He taught at a basic education middle school in Ngapadaw Township from 1980 to 1985, when he ended his teaching career because relatives involved in politics were being persecuted by the junta. He was a tutor until 2007, when he became involved in politics after his brother was detained and tortured by the military government for participating in the monk-led protests that year.

U Than Aung’s way with words earned him a special role in the NLD’s Ngapudaw office before the election. He was its communications officer.

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