Interview with Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, Secretary of the Chin National Democratic Party Featured

Salai Ceu Bik Thawng speaking at the Chin Youth Organization of North America convention in 2015 (Photo: CYONA/Facebook) Salai Ceu Bik Thawng speaking at the Chin Youth Organization of North America convention in 2015 (Photo: CYONA/Facebook)
Interview with Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, Secretary of the Chin National Democratic Party

29 January 2016 – The Chin National Democratic Party, one of the 13 political parties contesting the 2015 general election, competed in Chin State for 39 seats. However, it did not win a single seat.

In this interview with the Chinland Guardian, Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, CNDP Secretary, talked about why the party did not perform well in the election and other issues.

Chinland Guardian: How did you evaluate the election in Chin State?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: It went more smoothly than we expected. There is only one electoral complaint in Chin State. As for our party, we thought we didn't have enough time for the campaign. I believe what we said during the campaign period will still have some impacts on the Chin people for the future.

Chinland Guardian: Why do you think the CNDP did not win any seats in the 2015 general election?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: The first reason is because of the weaknesses of the party leaders, including myself. We were not able to make the public clearly understand our policies.
Secondly, we cannot stand on our own feet as a political party that uses the name 'Chin', unlike other parties in Arakan and Shan States.

Chin parties such as the Chin National Organization in 1960, the Chin National League for Democracy in 1990, and other Chin parties in 2010 and 2015 did not get the majority vote from the Chin. We are not the only ones to get the blame for it but the thing is that the public themselves are not fully united in the name 'Chin'. Like what Zing Cung, leader of the Chin National Front, said: “If we don't place the meter of our patriotism higher, we won't achieve success as a political body representing the Chin as a whole.” Therefore, it is important that both leaders and the people stick together to our nation whatever the situation is.

The third reason is that people only see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in this election. They said they voted for her in recognition of her sacrifices. They also said they voted for Suu Kyi this time and would vote for their nation. We cannot say they did wrong.

Chinland Guardian: As a political party, was there anything that could have been done better to win a victory?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: As I have already mentioned, we were not able to convince our public. If we had had a chance and had been able to convince the public of vote sharing between the NLD and the ethnic parties, and the possibility where we could have stood shoulder to shoulder with the NLD following the winning votes which would have counted for federalism and democracy, then the results may have been different.

For instance, it was clear that the NLD would be successful enough in the plain areas of the country to be able to form a government would be strong enough to win against the USDP. In other words, the USDP would lose the election if the NLD won just 334 of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw seats as there are about 1,170 contested seats in the whole country. The point I want to make here is that we didn't have to give all our votes to the NLD. The public were not clear about our message: “Let the NLD win in the plain areas and the ethnic parties in the ethnic areas. Then, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the NLD.” In fact, NLD candidates in Chin State told us that they needed seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and that we could take the Pyine Hluttaw seats (18 in total). However, the Chin public gave more votes to the NLD than they needed and as a result the NLD took it all.

Let’s take a look. Did the NLD lose because Arakanese, Shan, Zomi, Pa-O and Palaung parties won in their areas? No, they didn’t. This is exactly what we wanted to say. As for them, they will now stand shoulder to shoulder with the NLD. Unlike Shan and Rakhine parties, we, the Chin parties, lost face when we participated in national events like at the political leaders’ meeting and the Union Peace Conference. To tell the truth, the NLD also gave respect to these ethnic parties and will allocate some political positions to them, according to news reports. Overall, this is a big loss not only to us as a party but also to the Chin nation. I will talk more about this issue in the future.

Chinland Guardian: Chin communities have started talking about the need for all the Chin political parties to stand as one party in the next election. What's your view and do you think it will be possible practically?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: This is one of the things we want to happen most. Among Chin parties, the CNDP was the first Chin political party established to compete in the 2010 general election. Then, other Chin parties emerged. We could not persuade them not to form a new party. It could be because of our weaknesses but there were other reasons, too. However, we keep on trying till today.

There are three parties that use the name ‘Chin’. We are still making an attempt to create a common platform for us to come together as one party. It will be best if other parties can join, too. Based on what we had experienced through our attempts in the past to merge with the Chin Progressive Party, we have learned that the issue has got to be dealt with carefully. Our willingness to merge with other parties can create division as there can be members who disagree with the merger. For instance, the two Rakhine parties were merged not by their leaders but by the public. Their leaders are still at loggerheads. So, we have to keep trying and we are still trying.

Chinland Guardian: So, what are the next items on the party's agenda?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: The party’s performance will have to be reviewed and strengthened. We will also have to look at issues related to the merger with other Chin political parties. Most importantly, we will work on how we can promote our rights as a nation and religious rights with the new government. We will also work closely with the Chin National Front in the ongoing peace process.

Chinland Guardian: What would you do first if the CNDP had won the election and were to form a State Government?
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: Well, the priorities would be to amend the Constitution and to put together all the votes from the Chin and other ethnic nationalities in order to establish a Federal Union; to integrate all the Chin villages that have been pushed into other Regions back into Chin State; to implement the mother tongue-based education system; to officially register all Chin churches in Chin State and other parts of the country as well as their plots of land; to make Chin State clean from poppy cultivation; to observe Chin National Day as an official holiday; to re-draft and get the Chin Act/Chin Customary Law enacted which the Chin State Hluttaw drafted but it was not passed as the Union Government advised against it; to pull Chin State in the next five years out of the position of being the least developed State; to publish a Chin fact book that includes the Chin population across the globe; and to organize a conference where Chin representatives from across Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, and India (mainly from Mizoram and Manipur States) could attend. Another issue would be to implement the 150 points of the Chin National Conference (2013).

Chinland Guardian: Your message to the Chin people.
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng: We thank all those who support Chin political parties. Keep supporting us. One day our dreams will come true. As long as the Chin nation exists, our politics will prevail. It is the heritage from our forefathers. Let’s protect our nation as our forefathers protected it with blood from losses against enemies. #

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