NLD Culls Security Staff after Criticism

By Lawi Weng & Nyein Nyein 11 July 2012

A number of security staff for the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been sacked following severe criticism of the heavy-handed treatment of international and domestic media.

Party chairman Aung San Suu Kyi made the move upon returning from her first trip to Europe for 24 years late last month, with around 20 members of her security team, including home guards, reportedly relieved of duty.

No one from the party would confirm the reasons behind the cull, but criticism from reporters and photographers covering the Nobel Laureate’s movements is rumored to be behind the decision.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win played down the move when approached by The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “The current people who were told to leave from their tasks are not NLD members, and they are just her security personnel,” he said.

But a source close to the party said around half-a-dozen of those sacked were party members, including Suu Kyi’s security chief Khun Thar Myint.

Nyan Win said that the democracy icon arranged her own security but the party was on hand to provide more men if requested. However, he declined to go into more detail about the job losses when pressed by The Irrawaddy.

Many observers believe that Suu Kyi is attempting to improve relations with the media while she goes about her day-to-day duties. Some reporters in Rangoon have slammed the aggressive actions by her security guards who allegedly intimidated a journalist from the city’s The Express Times business journal during an event on May 8.

Kyaw Kyaw Min, editor-in-chief of the publication, sent a letter of complaint to the NLD’s Rangoon headquarters after the incident in order to resolve the problem. And Win Tin, a party founder and himself a former journalist, told The Irrawaddy at the time that he wanted to peacefully resolve the dispute.

But Kyaw Kyaw Min told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he is yet to receive a response or apology from the NLD. “We condemn the action of taking someone in particular out of an event to intimidate him,” he said.

The NLD scaled down inviting Rangoon journalists to media events after the incident, according to local sources in the industry.

The profile of the NLD has mushroomed since the party won 43 seats in the April 1 by-elections and became the largest single opposition group to the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the Naypyidaw Parliament.

“After the NLD won a majority of seats at the by-elections, we found that there are some people from the party who want to show their importance and talked very aggressively to journalists,” said a Rangoon-based journalist.