The junta-proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is blackmailing locals in Shan state with threats of arrest unless they sign up as members, a Shan party has claimed.
A source in the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), which is competing with the USDP for seats in the 7 November elections, said that locals in four townships – Mong Nai, Lang Khoi, Mawkmai and Mong Pan – in the eastern state had complained that the USDP was exploiting their need to cross illegally into Thailand each day for work.
USDP officials reportedly told the locals that they could be arrested at any time for illegal border crossing, a phenomenon that the lack of reliable work and infrastructure in Burma’s border regions has rendered a normal way of life for thousands of people. Membership of the party however would reduce the threat of arrest, they claim.
The SNDP source, who requested anonymity, said that a number of former Shan party members had now resigned their membership through “fear of harassment by the USDP”.
The USDP, which is headed by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and looks set to field nearly 1000 candidates, has also been accused by another party of “stealing members”.
Aye Lwin, chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP), said that party officials had “forcibly recruited” three members in violation of election laws that he claims ban parties recruiting members of other parties.
“It is a very ugly thing that is being done by a party formed by the current government,” he said. “[The USDP’s] leadership should give their members at the bottom specific directives, such as regulations they should follow. I think this situation is happening because they didn’t do so.”
It is not the first time that the USDP, which has been widely tipped to win the polls, has been accused of election fraud. In June, competing candidates said that the party had begun campaigning before permission was granted by the Election Commission (EC) – strict election laws severely curtail the freedom of parties to campaign, but there have been accusations of double standards by the junta-appointed EC.
It was the EC that, according to SNDP chairman Sai Ai Pao, blocked the party during a July attempt to canvas for votes in Karenni state, which borders Shan state, despite allegedly sticking to election laws that require parties to notify to EC of any campaigning activities a week in advance.
Additional reporting by Aye Nai