Myanmar Military’s Proxy Party Arms Members With Bamboo Sticks

By The Irrawaddy 28 February 2023

Myanmar’s military regime has enacted a new Political Parties Registration Law which warns against provocative campaigning. But, last week, the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) handed bamboo sticks and sharpened bamboo sticks to its members in a ceremony in the capital Naypyitaw.

The arming of USDP members with the bamboo weapons took place on February 21 and was led by U Myint Hlaing, the chairman of the USDP’s Farmer Affairs Committee.

Some 300 USDP members in the people’s security forces across Dekkhinathiri Township in Naypyitaw received the weapons. U Myint Hlaing told attendees: “Come and take it. Feel free to take it. This is also a weapon, too, a home-made weapon.”

Previously, former Lieutenant General U Myint Hlaing served as the agriculture and irrigation minister in U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government. He was infamous as ‘One Meal’ Myint Hlaing for asking farmers to skip a meal each day in order to repay their agricultural loans to the government.

At the event on February 21, U Myint Hlaing recounted his combat experience as a soldier, hailed the Myanmar military, and slammed the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

USDP members have taken part in fighting against People’s Defense Forces (PDF) alongside pro-junta militia and army veterans. The arming of USDP members with the bamboo weapons follows the military regime’s new policy of supplying arms and ammunition to pro-junta civilians who agree to participate in local security and law enforcement in their states and regions.

The USDP, along with a dozen other parties, has re-registered with the junta-appointed Union Election Commission as required by the regime’s new Political Parties Registration Law. The commission has said nothing about the USDP’s arming of its members with the bamboo sticks.

Over 1,600 USDP members and supporters have been killed by resistance forces nationwide since the 2021 coup, according to the party. USDP chair former Brigadier-General Khin Yi has attacked the NLD on his trips to USDP branches across the country. Last year, he urged party members to “wipe off their tears, tighten their grip on swords, move a step forward and fight the PDFs.”

Bamboo sticks have previously been used as weapons by political parties in Myanmar.

The Myochit, or Patriots, Party was dubbed the Bamboo Stick Party as its members used bamboo sticks to attack rival political organizations. The party was led by Galon U Saw, who orchestrated the 1947 assassinations of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San and some of his cabinet.

Established in 1938, the Myochit Party was widely-known, but was intended solely as a platform for Galon U Saw to achieve power and made no significant contributions to public welfare.

As Gen. Aung San’s Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League Party grew in popularity after World War II, the Myochit Party was sidelined.

The party vanished from Myanmar politics in infamy after Galon U Saw was hanged for the assassination of Gen. Aung San, the father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.