Htay Oo told The Irrawaddy at the USDP headquarters in Naypyidaw on Thursday that his party has been making the necessary preparations for publication of a newspaper since the Ministry of Information announced recently that it would allow private newspapers from April 1.
“Our education department is taking the lead in preparation for a newspaper,” said the USDP vice-chairman. “We have been planning to publish a newspaper for quite a long time in order to disseminate the USDP’s opinions among the general public. We will be successful only if we include the party’s opinions in the newspaper, which is very from a journal or a magazine.”
The National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma’s main opposition party, has also officially announced that it will change its party publication, the D-Wave journal, from a weekly to a daily.
Htay Oo said the USDP will bring experts from outside to work with its members to publish the newspaper. There are many challenges to make a daily newspaper successful, he said.
“We have to work with experts. They may or may not be our members,” he said. “How to select news is important and how to present what people want to know is also very difficult. It’s easy to talk about publishing a newspaper, but much more difficult to implement, so we will do our best.”
When asked if the USDP is planning to expand its other business interests, Htay Oo said the party is not a company that only seeks profits. He said that the party’s revenue from its businesses, as well as from membership fees and donations, is spent on party activities and public affairs.
“It is true that we have gas stations, but we don’t operate them ourselves. We have to cooperate with people who know how to run such businesses, from which we derive appropriate benefits,” explained the USDP vice-chairman.
“In fact, the income from our businesses is not sufficient to cover the cost of our public affairs activities. We are not running a company to make a lot of money. We are just thinking about people’s needs and how to find ways to provide them,” added Htay Oo.
“When people first joined our party, we collected membership fees of 1,000 kyat [US $1.25] each. That means if we have one million members we have one billion kyat. We have deposited that money in a bank so we earn regular interests. We have thought about a banking business before but it is very difficult and we can’t start it yet,” he said.
In the lead-up to the 2015 election, the USDP is reportedly paying particular attention to activities that involve people’s participation.
The USDP is currently chaired by President Thein Sein. Shwe Mann, the speaker of the Lower House, and Htay Oo are the party’s deputies, while Maung Maung Thein, the former livestock and fisheries minister, serves as the general secretary.