Leaders of Burma’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) said they were unaware of a controversial decision by Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Win Htein to summarily dismiss the chairman of a local chapter of the party in Shan State.
Tin Maung Toe, the NLD chair in Taunggyi Township, was fired on Sunday for writing a Facebook post that took issue with plans to replace five regional executive members, including Shan State chair Khin Moe Moe.
“Money can buy a CEC but not their political background,” he wrote, suggesting that the move was intended to favour wealthy donors at the expense of long-time party members.
Win Htein, who was at a party meeting in the Shan State capital on Sunday to handle the planned reshuffle, fired Tin Maung Toe on the spot, accusing him of publicly slandering the party.
“He posted on Facebook implying you can be a CEC member if you are wealthy. That is an insult,” said Win Htein as he left the meeting, adding that he told Tin Maung Toe that the post was in violation of the party’s guidelines.
“He is allowed to speak freely in the meeting as other party members did — some of them were very feisty, but that is acceptable in a democracy — but [Tin Maung Toe] decided to post on Facebook and that is against the party’s regulations,” he said.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi instructed me to deal with this matter decisively and so I did,” he added.
Aung Kyaw Naing, a local party member, confirmed that Win Htein claimed in the meeting that he had a mandate from Aung San Suu Kyi, the party’s leader, to remove three active regional executives from their positions, but decided to hold off on replacing them and two others who had already quit in protest.
“[Win Htein] said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi bestowed on him a mandate to deal with the matter, which he accordingly did,” said Aung Kyaw Naing.
Khin Moe Moe, the dismissed NLD Shan State chair, said the party’s decision to replace her and four other regional executives, allegedly with individuals handpicked by influential party members, had been mulled since July and was seen as controversial among local party members. She said Win Htein, apparently unaware of the controversy, decided to postpone any final decision on their replacements after he spoke to some of the outgoing regional executives.
Tin Maung Toe said Win Htein verbally ordered his dismissal.
“He just said, ‘You are fired’ and I responded that I would not accept it — the NLD is not an autocratic party and we have rules and regulations. If they deemed that I violated the regulations, then the disciplinary committee must investigate this and I will voluntarily resign if I am found guilty,” he said.
Than Lwin, the NLD’s Taunggyi Township chairman, said he tried to convince Win Htein to reconsider Tin Maung Toe’s dismissal, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, the party’s headquarters in Rangoon has yet to make an announcement on the dismissals. Party secretary Nyan Win said he was mostly oblivious of the development.
“I heard about some dismissals but I don’t know who or why — I have absolutely no idea,” he said.
CEC member Tun Tun Hein said he was unaware of the circumstances of Tin Maung Toe’s dismissal, but added that it would be unfair to fire him without investigating whether he committed any wrongdoing.
“I honestly don’t know as I have been away in Naypyidaw, but before we sack someone we should first investigate whether they really violated the party’s regulations or not,” he said.
This is not the first time that the NLD has been accused by its own members of “cronyism”. In October 2012, more than 130 rank-and-file members quit over what they saw as favouritism towards members with close personal ties to the party’s leadership in the selection of members to help organise a national convention.