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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Ruling Party Swapping Solar for Support in Pegu Race, Says NLD

Ruling party officials in Pegu Division’s Thayawady Township promised solar panels in a bid to court voters, according to Burma’s main opposition party.


Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Pegu Division’s Thayawady Township have been promising solar panels to those pledging to vote for the party on Nov. 8, according to officials of Burma’s main opposition party based in the township.

Win Tun Zaw, a press officer for the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Thayawady Township, said every party should compete fairly.

“We will complain if [any party] violates the law. We will report the case to the concerned election commission as well as district, division and Union election commissions,” he said.

Aye Naing, a resident of Kanpyo Village in the Nyauk Kauk Kway village-tract in Thayawady Township, said the ruling party’s unabashed attempts at wooing voters could fuel political tensions in the area.

“The administrator of our village summoned villagers on Tuesday and said the Nyauk Kauk Kway village-tract USDP campaigner asked him to ask each household whether they would vote for the USDP or the NLD. He marked a tick against the households which would vote for the USDP and a cross against the households who would vote NLD,” Aye Naing said.

“He said that six households which put up NLD signboards at their houses would definitely not get solar panels. This is intentionally sowing discord among us.”

Myint Lwin Oo, the current Pegu Division finance minister, is contesting the Thayawady constituency for the local parliament in the coming general election. Locals claimed they had seen solar panels at his house in the township.

USDP officials refused to comment on the allegations.

Other establishment heavyweights have been accused of proffering material incentives in exchange for electoral support in recent months.

President’s Office Ministers’ Aung Min and Soe Thane, running as independent candidates for the Upper House seats of Karenni-7 and Karenni-9, respectively, have both been accused of using their financial and political heft to butter up voters ahead of the poll.

In Irrawaddy Division’s Myaungmya Township, former immigration minister Khin Yi, incumbent sports minister Tint Hsan and divisional finance minister Win Ko Ko, all have reportedly rallied local support by providing free medical treatment, making cash contributions to villages, and building roads and bridges in the township.

Than Htay Blasts Opposition

Meanwhile, former rail transportation minister and ruling party candidate Than Htay, had strong words for the NLD at a campaign rally held at Thayarwady District football pitch on Thursday, taking particular aim at the opposition party’s election slogans and its mantra of “change.”

“If they can do better than me, I will applaud, but if not, just leave. We won’t ever give up. [Saying] ‘look at the party, not the candidate’ is bullshit. If that person has no ability, mettle, creativity, goodwill or diligence, nothing will happen,” Than Htay said.

He also urged voters to choose candidates who demonstrated humility.

“If someone thinks he is held in great esteem by the people, please don’t choose that guy. If you want to dig your own grave, then choose him. This is what General Aung San said, it’s not my opinion,” Than Htay said.

Than Htay, a former Brigadier-General, is contesting the Irrawaddy Division seat of Myanaung. The football pitch on which the USDP rally was held on Thursday is owned by the sports ministry, which had previously indicated the ground would not be used by any specific political party. The NLD office in Thayarwady Township said it would file a complaint over the issue with the township election sub-commission.

Than Htay also used Thursday’s public appearance to praise the recently passed “race and religion protection laws” which have drawn fire from rights groups for unduly targeting women and religious minorities.

“In the time of our government, we have introduced lots of changes and one of them is ensuring that Burmese people do not vanish from the world’s map,” he said. “Some people are saying that we are abusing religion for political purposes. In fact, people saying so themselves are immoral.”