In this second and concluding part of our interview, Kayin State Chief Minister Nan Khin Htwe Myint discusses the drug menace besetting the state and the government's efforts to address it. She also discusses the controversial Shwa Mya Sandi housing project in Myawady and the plight of people who have been displaced by conflict in the state. Here are excerpts:
Could you give us an update on the Shwe Mya Sandi housing project in Myawady township?
Shwe Mya Sandi is not a housing project. People live illegally there and call it housing. Most of the people living there are squatters. It is under the authority of the Kayin government, so we have to evacuate them. A peace organisation sold plots of land there and called it a housing project, but it is owned by the state. I explained this to the residents. According to the land use policy, only the state has authority to decide what to do with the land.
We have warned people who bought the land, which has been illegally divided and sold, that we will remove them one day. We are going to clear this area soon.
We have heard that the Forest Department issued notices to residents to move out of their houses in the area. Can you tell us about it?
The Forest Department issued notices to the squatters because they have occupied a forest area. I warned the residents it is illegal. They bought the land despite our warnings. Some of them bought five or ten plots. As they are illegal, they could suffer huge losses if they build big buildings.
What big projects and plans has the state government carried out since taking office in 2016?
There are bridge and road projects in our state. I always say that unlike other regions and states, there are no big projects in Kayin.
The big project was the Asian Highway Project, but it was suspended because NGOs told villagers that it would harm the environment. There is a health plan that provides K1000 per day to women after giving birth.
How about the provision of aid to refugee camps in Kayin? Has the recent death of Sayadaw Myaing Gyi Ngu, who gave them assistance regularly, had an effect? Are foreign and local non-governmental organisations helping them?
We regularly provide them with necessities such as rice and cooking oil. If they tell us they have other needs, we give it to them within one week. We want them to resettle in nearby villages because if they continue living in these conditions, it will affect their children's education and their livelihoods. Now the area has returned to normal, and people even come to visit Kyone Htaw Waterfall and other places. We want the refugees to go back home if possible. Some foreign organisations like UNICEF provide aid but not regularly.
How is the peace and security situation in Kayin?
Nothing much has changed in the state. It is generally peaceful, although there is some fighting in the upper part of the state. There was fighting in Hpapun, but it was short-lived.
Have you met with Kayin's peace groups?
I have regular meetings with peace groups as well as with the armed ethnic groups.
How are you dealing with the drug problem?
The drug problem in Kayin is terrible. It is everywhere and it seems like a lot of people are involved, as they can easily make money. Some people just want to take a shortcut and make money as fast as possible.
We mainly try to change the attitude and rehabilitate people who use drugs by sending them to a hospital. But recently we obtained land and money to build a recovery and rehabilitation centre. Construction will start next year.
What has been the most notable achievement of the current state government?
It would be in the providing of electricity to people. This is one of the most challenging tasks we face. Although not every town has electricity yet, we have lighted many villages since we took office in 2016.
How are you preparing for the 2020 elections?
We are meeting the needs of the people. At first, we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work that needs to be done, but two years later, we find that we can handle the work.
We will travel to villages and try to fulfill people's needs. We have made every effort to help the people.
We want to put more effort into the peace process. We want to give more support to the families of armed ethnic group members.
We will meet with the groups regularly to hear their concerns, needs and advice. We will continue our economic policies.