RANGOON — The government will act to ensure countless towns and villages that have for years been branded by the predecessor to the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) are stripped of partisanship once more, the Ministry of Home Affairs says. Putting party names on signposts designating administrative jurisdictions was unsanctioned and violators would be subject to legal action under existing law, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint told Parliament’s Lower House this week. His ministry would send instructions to state and division authorities to adhere strictly to the officially approved list of names for Burma’s administrative jurisdictions, he said, adding that this would apply to the 73 districts, 330 townships, 417 cities and thousands of villages that officially make up administrative Burma. “We will order [relevant local authorities] to stick to the name list approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs. If not, we will take action in accordance with existing laws,” Kyaw Zan Myint said on Monday. [irrawaddy_gallery] The deputy minister was responding to a question submitted by National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian Khin San Hlaing on whether city and village signposts implying a kind of ownership or sponsorship by the Union Solidarity and Development Association—a quasi-civic organization that was later absorbed by the USDP—were legal. Villages and cities in Upper Burma are commonly labeled on signage as a “Pyi Khaing Phyo village,” or include the words “Pyi Khaing Phyo” above the official name of a given administrative designation. In Burmese, Pyi Khaing Phyo translates to “State Solidarity Development” and has long been affiliated with the USDA. Tha Win, secretary of the USDP’s Rangoon Division branch, told The Irrawaddy that all signposts bearing the Pyi Khaing Phyo tag were erected prior to the USDP’s creation in 2010. He said most of the signposts were done in Upper Burma, where entire villages had joined the USDA and where the association had carried out development work. “We will be taking them down if it’s not allowed,” Tha Win said, while adding that the USDP’s central office had not yet issued any instruction to do so. The effective branding of cities and villages draws notable parallels to a separate USDP campaign: Rangoon residents told The Irrawaddy last year that a flurry of road repairs were carried out in the lead up to the 2010 election, with signs claiming USDP credit for the public works improvements. Official names for all of the country’s districts, townships, cities and villages are the product of the 1989 Adaptation of Expressions Law, which also saw the country’s name officially changed from Burma to Myanmar. Speaking before Parliament, Khin San Hlaing suggested that the partisan branding was disadvantageous to her opposition NLD. “Why have the authorities not taken action yet? We would like to know whether it’s allowed because [if it is legal], other parties also would like to do similar signposts,” she said. Hla Maung Cho from the Union Election Commission (UEC) said the matter was “administrative” and not the concern of the election body.
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