‘We supported them and then they arrested us’ – young anti-war activist takes on the NLD in Kachin 

Nine years ago, Seng Nu Pan’s native village of N Paung, near the border with China, was burned down amid fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

She spent the next few years living in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Myitkyina, Kachin’s capital, sharing a cramped single room with her parents and younger brother. 

Now aged 26, she is running to be one of the country’s youngest members of parliament. 

Seng Nu Pan, who now lives with her grandmother in Myitkyina, has already established a name for herself in politics by fighting alongside other activists opposed to the Tatmadaw’s war against the KIA. 

After studying law at Myitkyina University, she helped lead protests in Myitkyina in 2018 calling on the government and the military to allow safe passage for 2,000 people trapped by fighting in the jungle.

The following year she was arrested for taking part in a demonstration to mark eight years since a ceasefire broke down between the military and the KIA. 

She and a fellow activist named Paw Lu were sentenced to 15 days in prison under the Peaceful Assembly Law. 

After years of watching the National League for Democracy (NLD) government fail the people of Kachin, she says, she decided to compete for a seat for the Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP), which was formed last year by a coalition of four smaller parties. 

“The government we supported in 2015, which claimed to offer change, has gotten to the point that they have arrested people like us,” Seng Nu Pan told Myanmar Now. “So we need to be able to stand on our own and work for the interests of the people of Kachin.” 

She is hoping to win a lower house seat in Myitkyina, which is currently held by the NLD. 

She is serving as the central youth secretary for the KSPP, which is competing in 67 of Kachin state’s 70 constituencies and has eight other candidates under the age of 35. She is the youngest. 

“Because she’s a displaced person herself, I hope she’ll be able to do something for IDPs if she wins the election,” said Seng Nu Pan’s father, La Rein, a preacher who still lives in the Shwe Set Sit camp in Myitkyina. 

Candidates from seven political parties are competing in Myitkyina, which has over 100,000 eligible voters. 

The KSPP interviewed 500 young people in Myitkyina about the problems they want their lawmakers to address. The respondents overwhelmingly said unemployment, drug addiction and a lack of education were key issues.  

That has helped shape the party’s manifesto, and Seng Nu Pan hopes voters will see the KSPP as a party that is more engaged with the people of Kachin, and more likely to keep its promises to them, than the NLD. 

But her main focus if she’s elected will be trying to resettle IDPs and help them reclaim their land.

“There’s no other candidate providing a voice for IDPs. I am one. I feel for them and there is so much I want to do for them,” she said. 

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