USDP Hits Back at 'Party of Thieves' Accusations

By Htet Naing Zaw 26 February 2019

NAYPYITAW — The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on Monday fired back at online accusations that its members were all thieves.

The USDP has recently been hit with a barrage of attacks on Facebook calling it the “party of thieves” and accusing it of appropriating public property illegally. At a press conference in Naypyitaw, USDP spokesman U Thein Tun Oo retaliated by calling the party’s accusers stooges of Western interests.

“We can’t say that those who call us thieves or the party of thieves are members of the public. In fact they operate as a team with international support and each of them opened several [Facebook] accounts. In fact they want to shape public opinion through the media,” he said.

U Thein Tun Oo also questioned the records of serving government officials, noting that the targets of some recent public protests were still in office without specifying who he was referring to. The most recent protests against serving government officials for alleged corruption were in Tanintharyi Region, where some residents are accusing the regional chief minister of nepotism and bid rigging.

“It was not said by the people. But I would say that a certain organization that wants to defeat us is doing all this intentionally. Those who are accusing us can point out the things each of us has stolen. We are open to an investigation and any charges,” said U Thein Tun Oo, a former lawmaker in the Lower House of the Union Parliament.

“[State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] once said that [her government] would not retain power if the people no longer accept it. But it is as if it had never said so. [People] think [the National League for Democracy (NLD)] will not steal because it has never been in office. Now it is in office and people know it. We have done five years, and now they are doing it. After they work for five years, people will be able to judge,” he added.

The USDP evolved into a political party from the Union Solidarity and Development Association, an organization established by the military regime in the 1990s. In 2010 the generals of the Myanmar military resigned and joined the USDP to contest that year’s elections, which it won.

The NLD boycotted that election, deeming the contest unfair, but trounced the USDP in 2015.

Reacting to the USDP’s accusations, NLD spokesman U Myo Nyunt said anyone accused of corruption should be deemed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to defend themselves.

“Our party does not attack other organizations. On any issue, from constitutional amendments to elections, we act only in line with the law,” he said.

U Ye Tun, another former Lower House lawmaker, said the USDP will have a tough time erasing its image as a military proxy but suggested that a change of leadership would be a good start.

He said most people still believe the USDP and military are one and the same. If the party wants to change their minds, he added, “it will have to try for a long time.”

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.