5 Karenni State Ministers Resign Amid USDP Purge

By Yen Saning 14 July 2015

RANGOON — Five ruling party ministers in eastern Burma’s Karenni State have resigned, including the state’s chief executive, amid speculation that they do not fit into the party’s election agenda.

Chief Minister Khin Maung Oo—also known as Buu Yal—along with Transportation Minister Chit Hla, Electricity and Industry’s Saw Hu Hu, Municipal Minister Aung Naing Oo and the state’s head of Burma Ethnic Affairs Sein Oo, have all independently submitted resignation letters since late last month.

Four have been granted permission to leave their posts by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Khin Maung Oo is currently under investigation for unspecified activities, and has been purged from the party.

All five intend to contest general elections to be held in November, according to two of the ministers, though it is still unclear which seats they will seek and whether they intend to run at the state or national level. Chit Hla and Saw Hu Hu told The Irrawaddy that they will contest as independents with no party affiliation.

Chit Hla said the ministers were under no party pressure to resign, and that each made the move of his own volition. He chose to step down, he said, to allow the party’s younger talent to seek more seats. Nonetheless, he stated his intention to run against them if that is the will of the people.

“The election will be held in the coming three or four months, and the party must win. I don’t think I can perform the task, that’s why I requested to quit,” Chit Hla said, claiming that he chose to step aside “to offer places for young people who want to become lawmakers.”

Local analysts said there might be more to the surprise sluice. Khin Maung Oo, who is the state’s USDP chapter chairman, has recently fallen out of favor with the party because “he, himself, has failed to follow policy set by the party headquarters,” according to a statement released by the USDP on Monday.

The public reprimand said the chief minister “was weak in following the party’s instruction and weak in uniting the party,” announcing that he had been expelled from the central committee and the party.

Kyaw Htin Aung, a member of the grassroots political group Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY), suggested that Khin Maung Oo’s appointees had resigned because the USDP was unlikely to allow them to contest the elections in light of their affiliation with the shunned chief minister.

“That’s why,” Kyaw Htin Aung explained, “if they stick with the party they won’t be able to contest, so they just decided to run independently.”

The USDP is the dominant party in the small landlocked state bordering Thailand, though ethnic minority parties are gaining momentum as polls near. The Kayah National Party, All Nationals Democracy Party of Kayah State and the Kayah Unity Democracy Party also plan to contest this year’s election.

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and the Lisu National Development Party are also active in the area, but do not hold seats in either the state or national assemblies representing Karenni. Advance votes outnumbered election day turnout in the state during Burma’s last general election in 2010, leaving the USDP firmly in command of both houses.

President’s Office Minister Soe Thane and Union Minister Aung Min, both loyal to the USDP, are expected to seek votes in Karenni constituencies. The USDP plans to contest in all of the 1,171 races during the upcoming election.

Additional reporting contributed by Zue Zue.