PM’s party ‘to inherit’ USDA funds

Property and funds belonging to the recently-disbanded Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) will be transferred to the party headed by Burma’s prime minister.

The elections war chest of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is likely to swell following the transfer: the USDA, a social organisation that has acted as the civilian arm of the ruling junta in Burma, owns swathes of property across the country and its vast membership base has generated sizeable wealth.

Its dissolution 17 years after it was formed followed calls by candidates competing in the elections this year for Thein Sein’s party to make clear its independence from the controversial USDA. Aside from the similarity of the names, senior USDA officials hold close relations with junta ministers, while junta chief Than Shwe, second-in-command Maung Aye and Prime Minister Thein Sein are members of the group’s Central Panel of Patrons.

Phyo Min Thein, head of the Union Democratic Party (UDP), said that Thein Sein’s party will inherit USDA property, despite the “funds of the USDA [belonging] to the state and the people”.

“The USDA was founded with the goal of undertaking duties of the nation and it was led by the leaders of the nation. For a political party to be making use of such funds is tantamount to violating electoral laws as well as other existing laws.”

His concerns were echoed by U Myo, legal analyst with the exiled Burma Lawyers Council, who said that the USDA “had been making use of state-owned buildings, cars, and facilities before it was dissolved”.

“Just observe the rights that [the USDP] has been getting and the rights that other political parties get. The political parties do not have the rights the USDP is enjoying. It is unfair.”

Election campaigning by the USDP has been boosted by apparent favouring by the Election Commission (EC), which turned a blind eye to early canvassing by USDP candidates and recruitment of members.

If reports about the property and financial transfers are true, it would appear to show outright government support for the USDP and add further controversy to what critics have already decried as a sham election.

A USDA official told DVB however that no transfer of property or funds has yet take place, while USDA headquarters and lower-level offices said they are still operating because there had been no directive from senior officials to close.

Rumours are also circulating that the USDA has submitted application to Burma’s home ministry to reform as a non-governmental organisation under a new name, although this has not been confirmed.

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