T Khun Myat: Who is the new Pyithu speaker?

T Khun Myat, far right, stands with outgoing Pyithu speaker U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Shwe Mann during a meeting in November 2015. (AFP)

By NYAN HLAING LYNN in NAY PYI TAW
and THOMAS KEAN in YANGON | FRONTIER

The National League for Democracy has elected independent U T Khun Myat (Kutkai, Shan State) as the new speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house), following the resignation of U Win Myint yesterday.

Lawmakers also chose Bill Committee chairman U Tun Tun Hein (NLD, Nawnghkio) to replace T Khun Myat as deputy speaker of the lower house.

In his first address to MPs as speaker, T Khun Myat said he would “raise the dignity” of parliament by prioritising the national interest over personal interest.

“I promise that I will work according to the hluttaw laws, bylaws, and rules and regulations to ensure that the people get more access to their rights as citizens,” he said.

Former speaker Win Myint resigned immediately after the President’s Office announced the resignation of President U Htin Kyaw and is widely tipped to be the next in line for the presidency.

T Khun Myat was nominated for the speaker position by NLD lawmaker Daw Khin San Hlaing (Pale, Sagaing Region). He defeated a challenge from U Thaung Aye (USDP, Pyawbwe, Mandalay Region), with 280 votes to 141.

Similarly, the USDP nominated one of its lawmakers, Dr Maung Thin (Meiktila), to compete with Tun Tun Hein for the deputy speaker post. He fared only slightly better than Thaung Aye, garnering 151 votes to Tun Tun Hein’s 270.

A colourful past

While nominally an independent, T Khun Myat is close to the NLD leadership because of his relationship with former speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, who is a close confidante of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leads the powerful Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission.

Elected in 2015 as a Union Solidarity and Development Party candidate, T Khun Myat was later sacked from the party along with other Shwe Mann allies. In the previous parliament he served as head of the Bill Committee.

An ethnic Kachin who goes by the name Jeffrey, he was once the leader of a Kutkai militia that allied with the Tatmadaw against Communist insurgents and, later, ethnic armed groups. Based around 25 kilometres north of Lashio in northern Shan State, the Kutkai militia is said to have around 600 soldiers.

While leading the militia he concurrently served as a director general in the Attorney General’s Office, participating in the commission that drafted the 2008 constitution.

Tun Tun Hein has followed a more typical route to power for an NLD appointee. He grew up in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region, and Nawnghkio, Shan State. A strike leader in the 1988 uprising, he later became involved with the NLD and won a seat for the party in the 1990 election. He has been an NLD Central Executive Committee member since 2010.

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