Former General and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Ally Dissolves His Union Betterment Party

By Hein Htoo Zan 12 October 2022

Thura U Shwe Mann, a former military general and one-time ally of now deposed Myanmar leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on Wednesday announced the dissolution of the Union Betterment Party (UBP) he founded ahead of the 2020 general election.

U Shwe Mann, who was the third most powerful general in the previous junta that ruled Myanmar until early 2011, explained that he and other founding members were getting old, and some were not in good health, making participation in party politics difficult.

The UBP’s disbandment comes as the current regime is planning for an election next year. Most people in Myanmar and the global community consider the upcoming poll to be a fraudulent attempt by the junta to legitimise its grip on power.

U Ko Ko Naing, a UBP central executive committee member, declined to comment on the dissolution.

Formed in 2019 and led by U Shwe Mann and other retired senior military officers, the UPB contested 924 seats across the country as the third biggest party in the 2020 general election behind the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

U Shwe Mann supported other party candidates rather than standing himself in the 2020 election, but the UBP failed to win a single seat as the NLD scored a landslide victory.

A decade earlier, he helped the military-proxy USDP to win the 2010 general election, which was boycotted by the NLD. In 2011, he became Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw, serving a five-year term. As Speaker, he established good relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which attracted the ire of the military who saw him as a turncoat.

In May 2013, he became USDP chairman and vowed to run for president in 2015. But tensions among the USDP leadership saw him removed from his post in August 2015. He was eventually dismissed from the USDP along with 17 other executive and senior members in April 2016.

After the NLD won the 2015 election, U Shwe Mann served as chairman of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission from its formation in 2016 up to February 2019, before founding the UBP.

He has kept a low profile since the coup in February last year.