Interview and presentation by Maung Rammar
Today on 18 July, 2012, President U Thein Sein held a meeting with representatives from Ten Parties of the Democratic and Ethnic Alliance. The representatives are said to have presented their respective desires to the president in the meeting. U Oo Hla Saw, General Secretary of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, was among the representatives. When asked what he told the president on behalf of the Arakanese people and how the president replied, U Hla Saw gave the following answers.
Presentation to the President
I have presented about the Bengali unrest that occurred in Arakan State. There is confusion with the term Rohingya in the Bengali problems among some democratic forces of our country and international diplomatic communities. So I have presented to the president that historical seminars or workshops should be held in Naypyidaw inviting the Burmese as well as international historians to clarify the issue. And then I have told the president to officially form defense forces of Arakanese nationalities, to deploy more border guard forces because it has become insecure for the Arakanese nationalities living in Arakan State, especially in Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships due to those problems. I have also told him that the Arakanese people who are known for their patriotism are capable of guarding the west door of the country.
I have also presented the matter of natural gas to him. I told him that Arakanese people should get some of the benefits that will be received from selling of gas from Arakan State to China and from establishment of a special business zone in Kyaukpru. Arakan State is abundant in natural gas, but there is no sufficient power supply and the people have to pay the most expensive price for using electricity. I told him that the government should materialize plans for generating power from some portion of the gas to supply electricity in Arakan State by itself or in collaboration with the international companies as soon as possible.
Another very important matter is that the health sector in Arakan State is totally poor. There are no sufficient doctors and nurses in the hospitals in our state. So I have told the president that it would be convenient if the doctors and nurses who are from Arakan State would be employed in the hospitals in their own region.
The President’s Response
The president told me in response that the Rohingya problem is very subtle and it is necessary to be clarified and that he has decisively told the UNHCR officials about the problem.
Concerning the matter of forming defense forces and border guard forces, he did not give any decisive answers, but he has taken special not of the matter.
To the matter of gas, the president said that the Thahtaychaung hydropower project is totally undependable and to construct the Saidin project is also impossible. He said that the only possible way that has to be considered is to use some portion of the gas for power generation for supplying electricity in Arakan State. He said that is the only possible way.
For the health sector, he said it practical to employ doctors from Arakan State for their won state. He also said it is possible to do so and promised that he will try until it becomes possible.
We have presented the problems in our region to them because we have the rights to do so. But we don’t know if they would act according to their words or not. Whether they do or not, we will continue to voice and ask for what we need openly and incisively, and will try our best by legal an democratic means until our demands are fulfilled.
Time of Meeting
Our meeting was started at 9 am and concluded at 12 pm [on 18 July, 2012].
Attending Parties and Representatives
There were five Burman parties and five other ethnic parties in the meeting with the President. Minister U Aung Min and U Soe Thein also attended the meeting on the side of President. A total of 13 representatives of the ethnic parties that included I myself from the RNDP, U Kyaw San, the President of the Chin National Party, U Naing Hla Aung, the Vice-President of the All Mon Region Democracy Party, U Sai Aik Paung, the President of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, U Soe Thein Aung of the Karen’s Phalon-Sawal Democratic Party, Dr. San Nyein and U Khin Maung Shwe from NDF, Daw San San Nu and President U Thu Wai from Democratic Party (Myanmar), U Aung Than and U Myo Nyaunt from Democracy and Peace Party, U Tun Shwe from PUP and U Than Win from Union and Democracy Party attended the meeting.