Myanmar Military’s Proxy Party Involved in Pro-Execution Rallies

By The Irrawaddy 2 August 2022

The Myanmar junta’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was involved in organizing pro-execution rallies held last week in Yangon and Mandalay. The rallies came as the executions of four pro-democracy activists in late July sparked condemnation around the world.

Although the USDP has not expressed official support for the hangings, over 1,800 USDP members, including lawmakers, as well as USDP supporters have reportedly been killed by anti-regime forces since the 2021 coup. The USDP, too, has many former members of the Myanmar military in leadership roles.

Notorious nationalist U Hla Swe, a former army lieutenant colonel, was one of the lead organizers of a pro-execution demonstration that took place near City Hall in downtown Yangon on July 29. Junta soldiers provided security for the rally.

U Hla Swe represented the USDP in the Upper House from 2011 to 2015 under the U Thein Sein administration. He also organized pro-military rallies under the now ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government and was charged with sedition then.

Last Friday’s demonstration was joined by pro-regime mobs, USDP members and Buddhist nationalists, including some monks holding posters accusing executed pro-democracy activists Ko Jimmy and former NLD lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw of being terrorists.

U Hla Swe at the pro-execution demonstration outside Yangon City Hall in downtown Yangon on July 29.

U Hla Swe and other nationalists delivered speeches filled with criticisms and curses of the civilian National Unity Government and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Forces.

Another pro-execution rally was staged in Mandalay the following day. Junta-controlled media covered both rallies extensively.

A few days prior to the rallies, pro-regime mobs attacked the Yangon homes of Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, throwing stones at their houses and denouncing the pair while trying to intimidate their grieving relatives. Sources confirmed that people who were present at the pro-execution rally in Yangon were among the thugs that stoned the houses of the two men.

The USDP and extreme nationalists have long experience in staging pro-military rallies for propaganda purposes. The military regime’s current immigration and population minister U Khin Yi, who is also a USDP vice-chair, organized rallies targeting the Union Election Commission after the commission declared the NLD the winner of the 2020 general election.

Similar rallies were organized in Naypyitaw by former defense minister Lieutenant General Wai Lwin, who is also the chairman of the Naypyitaw USDP branch, according to The Second Democratic Government and Myanmar, a book written by U Soe Thane, a USDP lawmaker who served as the President’s Office Minister in the U Thein Sein administration.

Junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is hoping that the USDP will help him achieve his dream of becoming president.

With the Myanmar military guaranteed 25 per cent of all seats in the national legislature under the army-drafted 2008 constitution, the coup leader is hoping that the USDP can win at least 26 per cent of parliamentary seats in the election planned for next year, so enabling him to become president.