Myanmar Military-Backed USDP Accused of Exploiting Smaller Political Parties

By The Irrawaddy 13 September 2021

The Myanmar military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is taking advantage of smaller political parties to increase its influence on current affairs in Myanmar, said Daw Nan Shwe Kyar, the co-chairman of the Wun Thar Nu Democratic Party.

On September 8, the USDP released a joint declaration which it said was signed by 23 political parties, including the Wun Thar Nu Democratic Party. The joint declaration urged the United Nations (UN) not to approve U Kyaw Moe Tun as the parallel National Unity Government’s Myanmar ambassador to the UN.

However, Daw Nan Shwe Kyar said that her party did not sign the joint declaration.

“That they included my name and my party in the statement without my knowledge put me in danger, caught between two opposing sides. They [USDP] didn’t tell me what the statement was about. We didn’t attend any meeting. We were exploited and it is dangerous,” said Daw Nan Shwe Kyar.

USDP spokesman Dr. Nandar Hla Myint told The Irrawaddy that the party meets with other parties before issuing statements on Myanmar issues, and that those parties are only included in the joint statement when their party representatives have approved the discussion.

The fact that some party central executive committees raised objections to the joint statements, even though their representatives attended the meeting and signed off in approval of the discussion, is just an internal issue of misunderstanding within their parties, said the USDP spokesman. He insisted that Daw Nan Shwe Kyar had signed the joint statement.

“When we discussed the statement online, the Wun Thar Nu party agreed. We don’t know if they have had disagreements within their party. It was Daw Nan Shwe Kyar herself [who signed]. We have no reason at all to exploit smaller parties. We only support and partner with them for the sake of our country. Those accusations are wrong,” said Dr. Nandar Hla Myint.

The USDP has led other parties in issuing joint statements to make it appear that together they represent a distinct voice in Myanmar’s affairs, said a Yangon-based political analyst. But most of the parties did not win a single seat in the previous election and thus have no mandate to represent the people, he added.

“They want to make it appear that there is political power behind the USDP. But those parties did not win any elections. They have no political power and do not represent people on a wide scale. They are just nominal parties that the dictators created to make use of them,” said the Yangon analyst.

Last month, the Wa National Party (WNP) raised objections and distanced itself from its party chairman Sai Pao Nup after he signed a joint declaration of 28 political parties led by the USDP welcoming the election to be held by the military regime, and pledging to cooperate with the junta’s security measures.

Sai Pao Nup resigned as the WNP chairman after the party’s central executive committee said that he signed the joint statement on August 4 without its approval, and that his signing undermined public confidence in the party.

A few years ago, the Ta’ang National Party also said it was included without its consent in a joint declaration of 15 political parties led by the USDP in January 2017 calling for a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council, the highest national security authority in Myanmar.

The party said that it did attend the meeting led by the USDP, but that it did not agree to anything discussed. The party accused the USDP of misappropriating its name.

Ever since the National League for Democracy (NLD) took office in 2016, the USDP has led other parties, most small and nationalist, in releasing statements critical of the NLD. In August last year, just two months before the general election, 34 political parties led by the USDP met Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, asking him to intervene should the upcoming election not be free.

The NLD won an overwhelming majority in the November 2020 general election, which independent election monitors agreed was generally free and fair, but the military seized power on February 1, claiming that the NLD’s victory was made possible by fraud.

Two of the party leaders who met Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing before the November poll – U Thein Nyunt, chairman of the New National Democracy Party, and U Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force party – were both appointed to the military regime’s governing body, the State Administration Council, after the coup.

Others, including senior members of the USDP and Daw Thet Thet Khine, the head of the People’s Pioneer Party, were appointed as ministers in the junta’s so-called interim government.

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