New Chair of Myanmar Military’s Proxy Party Urges USDP Cooperation for Regime’s Agenda

By The Irrawaddy 5 October 2022

The new chairman of the Myanmar military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has told party members to cooperate to the upmost in the military regime’s agenda including the planned 2023 general election.

Former Brigadier General and Myanmar Police chief U Khin Yi said in his first speech as USDP leader: “When the state government is leading the way and dealing in the best possible way with the current situation of intervention from powerful countries who want modern colonization to media disinformation, we [the party] need to do our best and work together in every role.”

U Khin Yi, who is one of coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s right hand men, was elected as the USDP’s new chair on Wednesday during a party conference aimed at reforming the party’s leadership ahead of the election the junta is planning for next year.

His appointment came a day after former chairman U Than Htay announced that he was stepping down during his opening speech to the conference.

In a speech broadcast on the USDP’s Facebook page on Wednesday, U Khin Yi vowed that he will reform the party to become one that bridges the gap between the state and the public.

The new USDP chair also called on party members to work their best to help the party win the election planned for 2023, which is one of five key objectives the USDP has outlined. Other objectives include eliminating “terrorism” and those who support “terrorists” both at home and abroad.

Before and after last year’s coup, U Khin Yi organized a series of rallies during which so-called military sympathizers went on the rampage in Yangon, punching and stabbing those who denounced them, according to U Soe Thane, a former minister in U Thein Sein’s government.

U Khin Yi was vice chair of the USDP before the military takeover. The party suffered a heavy defeat in the 2020 general election, with U Khin Yi losing the parliamentary seat he contested to the National League for Democracy’s U Tin Tun Naing, who is now the National Unity Government’s Minister of Planning, Finance and Investment.

Subsequently, the military regime annulled the result of the 2020 poll, falsely claiming that “the election was marred”.

In August 2021, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing picked U Khin Yi as Minister for Immigration and Population.

He was removed from that post a year later, with Min Aung Hlaing reportedly wanting him to concentrate on preparing the USDP for next year’s election, which the coup leader sees as a way out of Myanmar’s political crisis.

Current USDP vice chairmen Myat Hein, the former Myanmar Air Force chief, and Hla Tun, a former finance minister and one of ex-dictator Than Shwe’s right hand men, will stay in their roles. A third vice chairman is still to be named.

Retired Lieutenant General Tin Aung Chit was appointed as the USDP’s Joint Secretary General. He was previously the USDP’s Secretary.

The USDP leadership changes come at a time when the party is divided into two camps — those loyal to former chair U Than Htay and those who urged his replacement. The group who wanted U Than Htay out is believed to have been backed by Min Aung Hlaing, according to members of the USDP’s Central Executive Committee.