The Myanmar Times
Friday, 24 October 2014
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

In Myanmar's parliament, far from home

National Unity Party Amyotha Hluttaw representative J Yaw Wu in his room at the Nay Pyi Taw City Development Committee guesthouse, where most non-USDP representatives live when the hluttaw is in session. (Christopher Davy/The Myanmar Times)National Unity Party Amyotha Hluttaw representative J Yaw Wu in his room at the Nay Pyi Taw City Development Committee guesthouse, where most non-USDP representatives live when the hluttaw is in session. (Christopher Davy/The Myanmar Times)

The challenges of life as a parliamentarian in Nay Pyi Taw are numerous: sitting days and committee meetings that take up as much as eight months of the year; a modest salary of K300,000 a month; and none of the resources that are commonplace in other countries, such as an office, staff or even an internet connection.

The relative remoteness of the capital also poses a slightly different problem – how to keep in touch with constituents, particularly if you represent a rural constituency in Chin State or Rakhine State.

It is a problem Amyotha Hluttaw representative J Yaw Wu knows well. Geographically the largest constituency in the country, his seat encompasses sparsely populated northern Kachin State, and includes Sumprabum, Putao, Machanbaw, Nagmung and Kawnglanghpu townships.

“It takes up about one-third of Kachin State, and in most places there would be at least two or three representatives across that region,” the National Unity Party representative said during a recent interview in Nay Pyi Taw.

“I visited all of the townships during the election campaign but since then I still haven’t been able to go back to two of them.”

In Sumprabum travel is difficult because of sporadic fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Tatmadaw.

“Kawnglanghpu is very hard to reach, because you have to walk 20 days to reach the edge [of the township] and if you tour around the villagers and come back, you have to take at least two months so I couldn’t go back yet.

“There are no proper roads, just jungle tracks, lots of leeches and wild animals. Not many people want to go there; only my relatives are willing to accompany us.”

But the Kachin conflict has meant even Putao, the most accessible area in his constituency, is reachable only by aeroplane, as the KIA has destroyed bridges along the road from Myitkyina.

J Yaw Wu describes his constituents as Myanmar’s “forgotten people”.

“The central government couldn’t reach our people. … But I did whatever I could do for them here in Nay Pyi Taw, Myitkyina and Mandalay, particularly for health and education.”