Dr Linn Htut, the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s pick as Chief Minister for Shan State says he is saddened that some people are disappointed by his being made the head of Burma’s largest state.
The 56-year-old Shan State Hluttaw MP, who was elected from Lashio Township, originally hails from Yangon region. He has been criticized as ill-suited to become Chief Minister by some due to a perceived lack of ties to Shan State. He has lived in Lashio Township since 1994 when he took up a position at Lashio hospital.
In an interview with SHAN, Dr Linn Htut discussed his thoughts about the challenges that he will face during his term as the head of Shan State.
Q: Why did the NLD appoint you as the Shan State Chief Minister?
A: Frankly said, it’s because the NLD does not have a person for this position. That’s the reason they chose me. I was chosen for this post because of this. I was not a member of the NLD when they first formed. I was just a civilian. But, I was a supporter of the NLD party. I always supported the party in the past. Therefore the NLD asked me to compete during the November election which I won in Lashio Township. I won the election because I was lucky, not because I am an expert.
Q: You are not a resident of Shan State but now you have become the Shan State Chief Minister, how do you feel about this?
A: Of course I know, I think people who accept me for this position; they have their reason for that. But I know that for my personality they don’t like me. I know that they don’t like me because I am a Burmese person. However, I accept it. I understand how they feel. I feel saddened that people are disappointed. Even though people are criticizing me, I will have to ignore it because they are saying the truth. I’m not a Shan person. I cannot say anything because I’m just a product that was produced by the NLD.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem in Shan State?
A: The biggest problem is the ethnic armed groups. If we can solve this problem, we will be able to reach the door of peace. We have to solve the problem by peaceful means not by fighting. This should be the priority.
Q: What is your priority issue to solve when you come into power?
A: Even when I hadn’t been named chief minister, I had already received requests from people who asked me to solve problems relating to the peace process, land confiscation and so on. However, I think that peace process will be my priority. Other problems such as the drug issue, youth issues, human trafficking and unemployment issues as well as environmental ones such as the water issue. Right now, we are facing a water shortage issue. Therefore, we will focus on this problem. Then, we will find the solution for education, health and economics.
Q: People are now worried about dam construction on the Salween River, what are your thoughts on this issue?
A: Regarding this issue, we have to look at the benefits of this project. If it has more benefits than the impact, it should be carried on. If it still leaves our people in the dark but Thailand and China have all the benefits, in that case, we will not do it. We have to listen to the people’s voice.
Q: What would you say about the role of former Shan State chief minister Sao Aung Myat?
A: I have nothing to say about this. We have to understand that there were rules and regulations that controlled him. It was military rule during his term as a Chief Minister. Therefore, he could do what he was allowed to do. I don’t think it is his fault.
Q: As you are from the NLD, do you think the NLD will have power over you?
A: Of course, they will have power over me. But, it will not be the same [with military rule]. What I have to do is to cooperate with the community. We will have to look out for the people’s needs. If concerns the international level, it has to be done at the central committee. For me, I’m a country man I have never been abroad before.
Q: When the cabinet for the Shan State government is established, who do think will be in the cabinet?
A: I wanted to have as many ethnic representatives as possible. I will try to do something for that. However, it has to be approved by the central committee. We requested that the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) take a position but we understand that due to their policy they were not able to accept this.
Q: What message would you like to give to the people of Shan State?
A: I understand that they are not happy. I also feel the same. At this moment, it’s not a time to question why my mother was married to a Burmese. However, please give me a chance. I will try to do my job for a year or two. But, if people still want me to quit, I’m sure Aung San Su Kyi will ask me to quit. I gave my promise that I will not steal anyone’s property. I have never received a bribe from others and I will not do it.
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