In an exclusive interview with Mizzima, Thura U Shwe Mann’s son, U Toe Naing Mann, walks us through the recent turmoil in the Union Solidarity and Development Party that saw his father kicked out of his senior position. The interview took place on August 14.
What is the security situation of Thura U Shwe Mann now? Where is he?
It is not true that he is under house-arrest. Now, he is in Nay Pyi Taw. He is at his home. Today he went to parliament.
Did Thura U Shwe Mann have a say in the decision to remove him from his role as party chairman?
The decision was made in his absence.
We've heard that Cherry FM will be closed. What would you like to say about this?
There are 17 stations at Cherry FM. Sixteen out of the 17 stations are located at remote sites, and they were linked to a satellite in order to broadcast. Since yesterday, the 16 stations in remote sites have not received “signal”. They said the satellite called “Uplink” could not be launched. We asked them about it since this morning, and they said there was a “technical error”. But when we told them to resolve it, they could not give us an effective answer.
The station in Yangon is not linked to a satellite. Talking about the station (in Yangon), we can say that signal interference can decrease the signal, and the signal is not clear. That is what our listeners said.
We've received an invitation letter inviting us to discuss Cherry FM's production programme on Saturday. We will know whether they will continue to allow us to operate it or not. On Saturday, we will know what they will do and what they will say.
Tomorrow is the radio’s sixth anniversary, right?
We don't know whether we must halt it on the sixth anniversary.
Are you worried that a change in the political situation might negatively affect your businesses?
I'm not worried. My wife and I have about 1,800 employees. My brother has more than 2,000 permanent staff. We have permanent staff. We also work as a taxpayer and tax collector. And we have to do the things specified by Social Security Board. Moreover, we also work for workers' development.
My brother and I have been trying to become a “responsible investor”. We try to fulfill “Cooperate Social Responsibility”. We contribute to the tax system. Most of our businesses of us are recognized by the Internal Revenue Department. So tax officials don't need to come to us, we calculate the taxes, and then as dutiful citizens, we submit the amount of the taxes.
If I have to answer your question whether I'm worried for our family businesses, I am not worried for our family businesses. What I'm worried about is the staff. If we cannot “generate income” well, we may not be able to continue some businesses. It will depend on our income resources. If so, we may need to limit some businesses. We may have to reduce loads of some heavy businesses, but we are not worried. But our employees will encounter difficulties. And we will be a little bit busier.
I would like to ask questions about security. Last night, both the US Embassy and the British Embassy issued statements saying that the event is the internal affair of the USDP. But they say they are worried because the police force was used. And the embassies urged the authorities to ensure that the election to be fair. How much you—your family and the family of Thura U Shwe Mann— worried about security? What is your opinion on the way the security forces handled the case?
Normally, some people and our friends will be a little bit worried at this time. But I'm not worried because at the time they controlled the Union Solidarity and Development Party for security reasons and held a special meeting. About six cars carrying people who appeared to be members of security force arrived around my home. They “watched” me.
Yesterday, the number of security teams increased. But they [appeared to have a different colour or attitude] Different security teams have a different colour. I think that there are at least three or four teams which have a different colour. They have been posted around my home till now.
What is the security situation at the homes of the remaining family members?
There were not security forces posted around the homes of the remaining family members. They have been posted only around my home. They may have two reasons. One of the reasons is that they may think we may not like the way they handled the case in Nay Pyi Taw and they may think we can adversely react, so they may think national security could be harmed and there may be things to be done urgently. But they did not want to arrest and detain [us].
What about the security situation of Thura U Shwe Mann? Did they tighten security on him? Did they say they will not allow him to go outside? Have security forces been posted around his home?
Since earlier, in accordance with the law, they provide top security level [to Thura U Shwe Mann] which is equivalent to the security level for a vice president of the Union. The security personnel have to do two tasks. The first one is to provide security for the person they must protect. The second one is that they are members of security forces, so they have to inform their superior officers about the relevant person's information in accordance with the instructions given by their superior officers.
The members of the security forces can both benefit and disturb the person they must protect. The benefit is that the relevant person is secured. But his information can leak since the day he takes the office.
So they don't need to post more security guards. They can do anything they want by using the existing security guards.
I think the case is directly related to political changes. And some people have called for the removal of Thura U Shwe Mann as the Speaker of the parliament and the removal of him as a Lower House MP. What is your opinion on this? Is it possible to remove him from his role as parliamentary speaker?
It is called “political choice”, so it is the actions of the people involved in the “political arena” by using their “potential will”. I have no special comment on it. It is “political choice”, so we will have to see the opinions and the activities of the people who are involved in the process.
Some people said that the [USDP] chairman position was replaced because Thura U Shwe Mann has become friendly with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, and they have gained understanding. What is your opinion on it?
I think that in a country, the main leader wants to make changes and improve the country. He wants the country to be good. According to the constitution, the government law and the Union Parliament Law, the chief of the country is the President. He wants the country to be improved, to be stable and peaceful. That is my belief. And the chief of the government is the President. The chief of the administration is the President, too.
The President has to form a government including the cabinet that will carry out tasks on behalf of him (president). Based on their feelings, they will do the things what they think they should do for the country. The degree of our eagerness is different from person to person. If we follow democratic principle, negotiation is the most important. Only after negotiations, we will be able to implement plans. Sometimes negotiations may totally collapse. Sometimes, half of the things we want can be negotiated successfully…
Maybe the event is more related to distrust rather than the fact that [U Shwe Mann] became friendly with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
I think it is impossible that any group can influence the party…
The incident occurred in the night of August 12 was assumed to be an event in which the party chairman was removed. I'm a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, so I don't want to talk about the party's confidential information. We have to follow the party's principle.