Relations sour between pro-junta parties

One of the two main pro-junta parties competing in Burma’s elections has filed a lawsuit against a member of Prime Minister Thein Sein’s party, alleging foul play in the build up to the polls.

The National Unity Party (NUP), which came third in the 1990 elections, claims that a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is widely tipped to win the 7 November vote, snatched photographs of new NUP members intended for membership cards and destroyed them.

San Win is accused of being behind the incident on 19 September in Bago division’s Tharawaddy township that has caused the biggest fissure between the two pro-junta parties since campaigning began several months ago.

“[Two NUP campaigners] accidently showed the photos to the USDP’s youth campaigner, San Win, who took them away and handed them to the township’s USDP secretary, Thein Zaw,” according to NUP candidate San Thwin.

He claims that when asked to return the photos, Thein Zaw refused, saying: “We will not give you back. The USDP is going to win the election and you still lose even if you win anyway”. He then allegedly threatened that NUP members “would be in trouble” once the USDP had won.

The confidence of the USDP is not altogether unfounded – the party is led by current Burmese PM Thein Sein, and includes top-level government officials, including the junta’s former third-in-command, Shwe Mann. Like the NUP, it will field close to 1000 candidates in the polls, and compete in all 330 constituencies in Burma.

Prior to the incident, relations between the two parties appeared to be healthy, although the government-appointed Election Commission (EC) had refused two NUP candidates put forward for the vote.

But the NUP’s spokesperson, Han Shwe, told DVB this week that the USDP was a competitor, not ally, in Burma’s first elections in 20 years, and admitted that the USDP is “the strongest party in the whole of the country”.

Meanwhile, San Min, a USDP campaigns secretary in Tharawaddy was recently given a warning by the EC after apparently attempting to secure votes in exchange for donating to a village monastery.

“Three USDP members went to the Abbot U Sandara of Maha Zedihla monastery in Letpangon village and pledged to donate 200,000 kyat [US$200],” said a Tharawaddy resident. He added that when the monk’s assistants went to collect the money, San Min told them that “they were actually buying votes by donating the money”.

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