Different Boats but Same Destination: Interview with CPP Chairman
06 March 2011 [CG Note: No Than Kap, a.k.a John Khaw Kim Thang, the Chairman of the Chin Progressive Party (CPP), one of the two leading Chin political parties that participated in the 2010 elections, contested from Kalay, Sagaing Division and won a parliamentary seat in the Sagaing Region Hluttaw.
Known as a controversial figure who has been accused politically divisive at times, No Than Kap is the former president of the Chin National Front (CNF), the Chin armed resistant group opposed to the regime, and was running a theological seminary in Rangoon before assuming the leadership of the CPP.
In an interview with Chinland Guardian’s Van Biak Thang, the CPP leader talks about his views on economic sanctions, the Chin National Day, armed resistance movement and more…]
Chinland Guardian: We have learned that you are elected Chin Affairs Minister of Sagaing Region in Burma. What made you decide to contest in Sagaing Region rather than in Falam, Chin State and was it actually legal to do so since you live in Rangoon?
No Than Kap: Other than me, there are 18 Chin National leaders who will sit in the Chin State Assembly and look after the affairs of the Chins. But in the case of Chins in Sagaing region, the situation is different in that though they number a few hundred thousands. They are just a small minority among other races who are struggling for recognition and equality and I think to be with them and to serve them in this transitional critical time is my calling.
The money and energy spent for the campaign would have been much much lesser if I had contested in Falam which is far smaller in area and fewer in number of voters than Sagaing where Chins from 28 townships have to cast their votes for the seat that I contested.
The Constitution allows any citizen of Myanmar from anywhere to contest in any constituency of his choice. It’s legal, indeed.
Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about the Chin people living in Sagaing Region and how are you going to meet their demands and needs in the near future?
No Than Kap: There are between two to three hundred thousand Chins in Sagaing region spreading all over 28 townships. There are 37 townships in Sagaing region. Estimated 5% Chins are government servants, 10% private business and 85% general workers of cultivators. I am pleased that the 2008 constitution provides any National race numbering not less than 57,000 (0.1% of the whole population) a minister of their own elected by them from among their own race. Depending on the rights and power vested in me as the minister, I will do my best to meet their needs.
Chinland Guardian: In the interview conducted by Chin World Media, you mentioned that your party was confident to win in 8 out of 9 Townships in Chin State as long as the 2010 was free and fair. How do you make your evaluation on this?
No Than Kap: Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to organize and to contest in 2 townships (Hakha and Thantlang) and out of the remaining 7 townships that we contested we lost in 4 townships. As a matter of fact, when the popular votes were counted, we won in 5 townships out of 7. But when the advance votes came up things changed.
Chinland Guardian: There have been reports speculating that the new government of Burma is just a ‘cosmetic’ change of power and that it will not bring any real change in the country in line with the interest of the people. What is your view on this?
No Than Kap: In the history of nations, change hardly came quickly as people expected and waited eagerly. We have to be patient and follow steadfastly the path of change though it may be so rugged to slow down our steps.
Chinland Guardian: And celebrating ‘Chin National Day’ is still banned in Chin State. Instead, the authority allows only the use of ‘Chin State Day’, which is totally against the will and wishes of the Chin people. What is your reaction to this?
No Than Kap: Not that I am in favour of naming Chin National Day as Chin State Day, unlike others I have a different view on this so-called Chin National Day. To me the only day that deserves to be called a National Day for any nation is the Day they get sovereignty or the day they are free to do whatever they think is right and good for their nation. Do we have that kind of day so far? Judge yourself. On the other hand, I accept the argument that we need to have a treasured and special day on which the older generation could teach the younger generations our culture and traditions, etc.
Chinland Guardian: As former President of Chin National Front (CNF) and now an elected MP of 2010 Election, how do you think of the continuous existence of ethnic armed groups in Burma fighting against the authority?
No Than Kap: Whichever option we chose, either violence or non-violence, to meet a good and successful ending is more important than the mean or option we chose.
Chinland Guardian: As President of Chin Progressive Party (CPP), what is your relationship with other Chin and ethnic political parties as well as NLD in Burma?
No Than Kap: We all may be in different boats but long as we are sailing towards the same island of peace and prosperity there is no reason to look one another as enemies or rivals.
Chinland Guardian: Do you and your party also support the call for holding the so-called ‘second Panglong’ conference?
No Than Kap: The essence of Panglong agreement is equality and self determination within the state. So do we need another Panglong Conference? May be or may not be. I am not in a position to give a definite answer to this.
Chinland Guardian: In your party’s statement earlier, CPP called for lifting sanctions on Burma whereas other democratic parties including NLD (National League for Democracy) support sanctions. What do you say to the people who might get confused with two different voices on this issue and to these political parties in favour of sanctions?
No Than Kap: Even if sanctions were initially imposed to stop the abuse of human rights etc., by the west bloc, it is like shooting a small bird with a canon. Shoot a bird in the tree with a canon you will surely hit not only the bird but the tree where she sits. It’s a simple mathematics.
Chinland Guardian: The Chin people, especially now in the southern parts of Chin State, have been suffering from acute mautaam-related food crisis since early 2007. And the government has been accused of not only ignoring the situation but also blocking the flows of relief aids into most affected areas. Has this issue come to your attention?
No Than Kap: It did come to my attention. Now that a new Chin State Government appears they must find ways and means to help the affected peoples as early as possible. CPP will to its best too.
Chinland Guardian: Some ascribe the main reason of ‘misunderstanding’ among Chin tribal groups to the systematic implementation of ‘divide and rule’ policies by Burma’s successive authorities for decades while others blame the total lack of proper education and development infrastructures in place in Chin State. What is your view and what do you think the best way to re-building such diversities among the Chin people in order to have better cooperation and common platform?
No Than Kap: What makes the Israelite so strongly united? It is their deep understanding of who they are and where they belong. Secondly, its the antagonism and continuous and bitter opposition from the nations surrounding them. To have a better cooperation and common platform, we, the Chins must know deep in our hearts that we all belong to one ancestor and one father-land “Chinland.” This knowledge will free us from chauvinism, tribalism and rabidly stances that often disrupt our unity. Also, the Chins as diverse as we are today might be in need of more suppression from other nations to let us get more united.
Chinland Guardian: Your messages to Chin communities inside Burma and abroad.
No Than Kap: The Chin peoples all over the world must begin to put into practices love, forgiveness, honesty, unselfishness and begin to accept one another even if our dialects, birth places, clans and views may be different from one another.
- Together, we can make our father-land “Chinland” like a beautiful garden where different colours of flowers are blossoming.
- Together, we can become a great people.
- The trees on the hill tops of Chinland may sway and bend in the strong wind, but it will never fall to pieces. And the birds will not stop singing.
- Long live Chinland!