The Irrawaddy

‘I Am Not a Turncoat’: Thura Shwe Mann

NAYPYITAW — “I am not a turncoat,” said Thura Shwe Mann, the former head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the current chairman of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission of Myanmar’s Parliament predominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The ex-general, who was considered the third most powerful man in the military regime led by retired Snr-Gen Than Shwe, defended his move to ally himself with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi before the 2015 general elections.

He was serving as the Speaker of the Lower House under U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government when he tried to forge ties with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then a legislator in the Lower House.

U Shwe Mann said he cooperated with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the interest of the country and because he believed the USDP would win the 2015 election. But critics believe that he made the move for his political survival due to uncertainty regarding his future with the USDP.

“I told her [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] to hold an appropriate office and support me if I won [the election]. I said it was up to her if she won. I am not a turncoat,” said U Shwe Mann during the launching of a report on Thursday on the resignation of the constitutional tribunal under President U Thein Sein’s government.

He said so apparently in response to U Soe Thane, one the confidants of the former president and ex-President’s Office minister, who wrote that some top-level USDP party leaders with more than 40 years of military service surrendered to the opposition NLD because the latter was much more likely to win the 2015 poll.

“They were traitors, becoming turncoats although they were saying that cooperation was necessary for the sake of the country and countrymen,” writes U Soe Thane in his book “Myanmar’s Transition & U Thein Sein: An Insider’s Account.”

With an evident power struggle between the two sides since the start of democratization in 2010, U Shwe Mann claimed that ex-president U Thein Sein acted like an authoritarian in the elected government.

During the military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) chairman Snr-Gen Than Shwe was the top leader of Myanmar and any order signed by him was considered a decree, which the cabinet had to follow, said U Shwe Mann.

There was friction between the government and Parliament because U Thein Sein issued orders as if he were the head of the SPDC although any law had to be passed by Parliament in a democracy, said U Shwe Mann.

“Because he acted as if he were the SPDC chairman, lawmakers didn’t accept it. He asked us to legislate what he wanted and there was friction,” he said.

U Shwe Mann said he is not clear on whether he has been dismissed by the USDP or if he is still considered a member.

He was purged from the USDP chairmanship in August 2015 due to tension between himself and then President U Thein Sein. Other senior party members were also purged along with him.

U Shwe Mann said he submitted his resignation from the party some six months ago. “Three other colleagues and I submitted our resignation. The USDP replied to those three that their resignation was accepted. But their reply to me was ambiguous and I want it to be clear,” said U Shwe Mann.

U Shwe Mann graduated with Intake No. 11 of the Defense Services Academy in 1965. He was elected to the Lower House from Zayarthiri Township in a 2010 poll.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.