Suu Kyi Cancels Shan State Campaign Stop in Wake of USDP Purge

By May Sitt Paing 14 August 2015

RANGOON — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has canceled a planned visit to eastern Burma’s Shan State in the wake of a ruling party shuffle that sent shockwaves through political circles on Thursday.

Win Htein, a central committee member of her party, the National League for democracy (NLD), said the late night ouster of two party leaders is of concern to the Parliament, rendering her continuation of campaign activities “inappropriate.”

“We canceled the trip as it is inappropriate [for the NLD as a party] to continue campaigning, acting as if nothing has happened,” Win Htein said, remarking that Suu Kyi was displeased by the way parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann, who was expelled as acting chair of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), had been treated.

Shwe Mann, who is close with Suu Kyi and was widely viewed as a presidential contender, was replaced by an ally of President Thein Sein, Htay Oo, while Maung Maung Thein was swapped out for Tin Naing Thein as general secretary. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have expressed “concern” over the deployment of security forces to implement the purge.

Win Htein remarked that the incident was reminiscent of power tactics used by the former military regime, which ceded to a quasi-civilian government in 2011. Suu Kyi, the party’s chairwoman, was concerned that the episode would “impact politics,” he said.

His remarks stand in stark contrast to his initial reaction as the story unfolded. Win Htein told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that shifting power in the USDP was “their internal problem, not ours” and that it was unlikely to have a major impact on the country’s politics.

Suu Kyi was expected to travel to Shan State’s Hopong and Hsihseng townships to court votes for her party in a general election set for Nov. 8. The Lower House lawmaker is constitutionally barred from the presidency but her party is expected to fare well in the polls, drawing enormous crowds of supporters along the campaign trail.