U Sai Thiha Kyaw holds the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Mongyai Township in northern Shan State for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. He spoke to Frontier about his hopes of contributing to self-determination in Shan State.
Why did you leave the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party to join the SNLD?
I left the SNDP for the SNLD in February this year. I believe very strongly in SNLD’s policies and I think they make a very strong opposition party and [I] do not believe that is true for SNDP. Secondly, the people in my constituency asked me to join the SNLD.
I was very happy to be elected by the regional people, to try and help with regional issues. There is a lot of stress that comes with the job, but I am happy to have the chance to do things to benefit the people in my state.
Your term as an MP is nearing an end. Have you had success in what you have been trying to achieve?
I have had some success, but also many frustrations. Land issues have been a success, as 75 percent of land that was taken by the Tatmadaw has been returned to farmers. I have also helped provide drinking water to villagers and bridges have been built.
I am trying to bring benefits for the Shan people. This includes [ensuring] human rights, bringing democracy and the right to self-determination. There are other issues too, but the most important thing for me is to bring self-determination to Shan State.
Why is federalism so important to you?
We want to be treated equally in this country. At the moment, our rights are not equal with everyone in the country. We have to achieve this by changing the constitution. If we cannot change the constitution, then we will not have federalism in this country. It is down to the government to do this.
Do you intend to seek re-election this year?
I would like to run my own business, but if the people wish that I run in my constituency in the next election, then I will. For me, my duty is very important, but there are some MPs who do not work hard — they just sleep.
Although the salary for MPs has increased (from K300,000 a month to K1,000,000 a month), the salary for MPs is still not enough. I made more money as a businessman and many MPs need financial help from their families.
I live in the Nay Pyi Taw Municipal Guesthouse compound with other MPs [MPs from the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party live in a separate compound]. The apartments are very small and basic: the entire room is about 24 square metres. Where I stay in Nay Pyi Taw is much smaller than my home back in my constituency, but it is enough.