Cracks appear in election alliance

Accusations that a number of opposition and third force political parties are receiving money from a Burmese business tycoon has pushed one party to withdraw from an alliance created to shore up opposition support prior to elections.

The Democracy and Peace Party (DPP) said it has “temporarily suspended” itself from the six-party alliance, known as the Group of Democratic Party Friends, which includes the National Democratic Force (NDF).

It cited accusations published in a news journal that some of the other parties had accepted money from Hla Maung Shwe, chairman of the Myanmar Shrimp Association and vice chairman of Myanmar Egress. He is also the older brother of Brig-Gen Hla Myint Shwe, commander of the National Defence College. The allegations have been rejected by alliance members.

“We will never accept donations from any businessman or wealthy people – those people have ties with the government,” said Myo Nyunt, a senior DPP member. “The [news journal] specifically mentioned the NDF by name [as receiving money],” adding that it also mentioned ethnic Mon, Karen and Arakan parties, although not by name.

The Union Democracy Party (UDP), Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), Chin National Party and the Rakhine National Progressive Party are also members.

Both the SNDP and the NDF flatly denied the accusations. Khin Maung Swe, spokesperson for the NDF, which is fielding some 160 candidates in the 7 November elections, said that the party “didn’t take a penny from U Hla Maung Shwe, although it is true that we accept donations for individual parliamentary candidates.

“This can be made clear by checking the financial accounts at U Hla Maung Shwe’s company and see if they donated money to us. We heard that the authorities also had checked [the accounts] and they would have found out if the accusations were true but they aren’t.”

He added that the incident had raised concerns among the alliance that “we are going back to the old politics of punching below the belly-button.”

Altogether 37 parties will compete in the elections, with the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) widely expected to win. It will field close to 1000 candidates, while the UDP has put forward only three.

Additional reporting by Nang Kham Kaew

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