Myanmar Junta Threatens to Disband Two Major Parties After They Refuse to Submit Financial Records

By The Irrawaddy 24 February 2022

The Myanmar junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) has threatened two major political parties that won majorities in the 2020 general election with disbandment if they do not comply with its order to submit their financial accounts for inspection by March 9.

In a letter to their chairpersons dated Feb. 8, the UEC instructed the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and two other parties to appear before it on Feb. 14 to verify their financial accounts and expenses.

Neither the NLD nor the SNLD showed up, however, prompting the UEC to issue its warning on Feb. 23.

The NLD and the SNLD won majorities in the Union Parliament and Shan State Parliament, respectively, in the 2020 vote. The SNLD also came third in the nationwide parliamentary vote.

On Feb. 26 last year, the NLD released a statement saying it does not recognize the new election commission appointed by the junta and that its announcements are illegal.

NLD chairperson and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since she was detained by the military hours before last year’s Feb. 1 military coup.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, joint secretary of the SNLD, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday the party would accept a request from the UEC to visit the party’s main headquarters and audit its financial accounts. However, he said, “We didn’t commit any [wrongdoing], so we don’t need to go there [to the UEC] and be investigated.”

In written replies to questions from pro-junta media, the UEC said if the parties failed to comply with its instruction, they would face legal action under Section 24 (c), (d) and (e) of the Registration of Political Parties Law. Violations of these provisions of the law carry potential punishments of a three-year suspension, having their operations halted, and disbandment, respectively.

An NLD source told The Irrawaddy the party rejected the UEC’s call, as the junta had already arrested almost the entire party leadership.

U Kyaw Htwe, a spokesman for the NLD’s Central Work Committee, said the decision on whether to submit the party’s financial accounts for inspection would ultimately be made the Central Executive Committee members.

“Our party leaders who have been detained must be released immediately. Besides, [the UEC] needs to be a body that is legal to inspect financial accounts. This UEC was appointed by the military council; they have no right to scrutinize political parties.”

Political parties with popular support in Myanmar are at risk of being dissolved before the junta’s planned election in August next year.

U Khin Maung Myint, a lawyer, said that despite the UEC’s claim that it is acting in accordance with the law, the order that parties submit their accounts for financial audit “is not a fair demand at this time,” given that some parties’ leaders are detained or imprisoned, or have fled to avoid arrest by junta forces.

“The intent [of the move] is to suspend or dissolve the parties, as the current [political] situation does not favor financial inspection of parties,” he said.

Myanmar has 92 registered political parties. About half of them are proxy parties for the military, including the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The junta-appointed UEC has scrutinized the financial accounts of more than 70 parties. As of Feb. 9, it had checked the accounts of 67 political parties. At least six more showed up at the UEC to be inspected last week and this week.

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