Democracy Congress targets youth
By Thomas Kean and Kyaw Thu
July 5 - 11, 2010
U Kaung Myint Htut at the party’s office in Bahan township. Pic: Thomas Kean
KAUNG Myint Htut is young enough to be the son of most politicians involved in the 2010 election. At 35,
he‟s less than half the age of some of his opponents.
The founder and chairman of the Myanmar Democracy Congress says most of the party‟s members are
even younger, but there are some old political hands in the background helping to steer the ship.
“We‟re targeting mostly young people, in the 20 to 25 age bracket, with our party,” U Kaung Myint Htut
says. “We also have some experienced politicians who are not that prominent or well known but have
worked hard over the years. Some are former NLD members, some are from other parties and they have
experience of the 1990 election. But we need more young people because we need vigorous action to
move the [political] situation forward.”
Despite his age, U Kaung Myint Htut has a long history in politics.
He says he has now rejected a confrontational approach for one of cooperation and negotiation.
“I strongly believe the [Myanmar] people need legitimate political parties that will lead them to democracy.
We want to be more than activists. We need legitimacy, to be able to talk legitimately with the government.
The Union Election Commission has not yet granted formal approval for the party to register but last month
gave permission to its members to apply to register.
U Kaung Myint Htut says the personal history that many of the Myanmar Democracy Congress‟ members
carry is unlikely to affect the commission‟s decision, as they have come into the legal fold and pledged to
work within the law.
Having parties such as the Myanmar Democracy Congress, as well as the Union Democratic Party, led by
U Phyo Min Thein, and the National Democratic Force only gives the process more credibility.
“To form a party, you need to obey the rules of the government in power,” he says. “There is a line [you
can‟t cross]. The Election Commission, I believe, want more and more parties to accept the election and
work according to their rules.”
Like many of the 37 newly formed parties, the Myanmar Democracy Congress has few policies, something
for which U Kaung Myint Htut makes no apologies.
He says the party‟s primary focus – apart from winning seats in parliament – is to develop political
knowledge among the electorate and to cooperate with other parties to achieve “good governance for the
country” after the election.
“If you asked me, could we run the country, I‟d say, „No, we are not experienced enough,‟” he says. “It‟s
ridiculous the way some of the new parties talk. They are just one or two months old – they are like babies.
They are not big or strong enough to say, „We‟re eligible to run the country.‟
“But among the 42 parties, there are people who are experienced in administration and at running the
country. We can‟t exclude them. And there are some who are loved and respected by the people. We need
them too,” he says.
“The Tatmadaw is like the strongest brother in the family. We will include them – we need them involved.”
The Myanmar Democracy Congress plans to start campaigning during the next two months and will
organise teams to carry out party activities throughout the country, including in Chin, Kachin and Shan
states as well as Mandalay, Magway and Sagaing divisions.
Senior party members include the writer Wei Hmu Thwin, who is general secretary, and former NLD
member, U Taung Aye, who will organise the party‟s campaign in Chin State.
U Kaung Myint Htut says he doesn‟t agree with the argument that people are not interested in politics and
the 2010 election.