With Eye on Poll, Myanmar Military-Allied USDP Meets Charities, Social Groups

By The Irrawaddy 9 January 2023

The Myanmar military regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has met with some pro-junta social organizations and charities in Yangon ahead of a so-called election the junta plans to hold in August.

Since he was installed as the chair of the military-backed party in October last year, Khin Yi, a former brigadier general and a henchman of successive juntas, has been doing his job, making moves to solidify the USDP’s position ahead of the planned poll.

Khin Yi met 235 representatives of 29 Yangon-based organizations on Saturday at the USDP office in Yangon. According to his Facebook, among the organizations present at the three-hour meeting were social organizations and charities as well as teachers from so-called “Sunday Schools” where children are taught about the basics of Buddhism, and supposed philanthropists from the film industry.

The USDP meeting with pro-junta social organizations and charities is in progress.

Details about the names and nature of the attending organizations are unknown. Sunday Schools however are known to have ties with the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, a nationalist group better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha. Meanwhile, a handful of pro-military artists have been cast in the junta’s propaganda films.

The meeting, reportedly held under the aegis of the Yangon-based Three Season Foundation, was the first between Khin Yi and such organizations since he became the USDP chief.

According to his Facebook page, Khin Yi reportedly elaborated on the party’s “nationalist” policies, repeated the military’s narrative on post-coup conflicts, and explained how attendees should cooperate for the sake of the Bamar race and Buddhism.

He also offered to help solve the difficulties facing the organizations, in a visible attempt to solicit votes from them.

The meeting took place just two days after he held an informal meeting with 37 pro-military parties in Naypyitaw. Also present at that meeting was former Lieutenant General Myo Thein Zaw, who retired from the Myanmar military in October last year and became Khin Yi’s deputy; and former electricity minister in Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government Khin Maung Soe. As the head of the Yangon USDP chapter, Khin Maung Soe helped organize pro-military rallies targeting the then Union Election Commission before and after the 2021 coup.

Khin Yi and Khin Maung Soe also visited former Ma Ba Tha chairman U Tilawka Bhivamsa on Dec. 26 and sought his advice. Khin Yi is not alone in helping Min Aung Hlaing claim legitimacy on the international stage. His former colleagues and ministers of previous regimes are also backing him.

With 25 percent of seats constitutionally reserved for the Myanmar military in the national legislature, Khin Yi simply needs to make sure the USDP and allied parties get 26 percent of the vote to put Min Aung Hlaing on the presidential throne. With the regime switching to a proportional representation electoral system in the coming poll, it appears that Min Aung Hlaing’s presidential ambitions are on the way to becoming a reality.