NLD Tribunal Starts Investigating Controversial Shan State Purge

By Htet Naing Zaw & Nyein Nyein 26 October 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma’s ruling party, began hearings on Monday in Naypyidaw for an ad hoc tribunal charged with investigating the dismissal and demotion of leading members of the NLD’s Shan State chapter by U Win Htein, a leading party member known for his abrasive style.

U Win Htein, who sits on the NLD’s central executive committee (CEC) and frequently acts as a party spokesman, expelled the NLD Taunggyi District chairperson U Tin Maung Toe in a verbal order and demoted Shan State NLD chairperson Daw Khin Moe Moe and two others during his visit to Shan State in September.

The expelled and demoted members were accused of disloyalty to the party—for instance by failing to campaign adequately for the NLD during the 2015 general election—and of violating party regulations. They subsequently filed an appeal, prompting the party’s CEC to launch an internal investigation.

After hearings from both sides in each case are completed, the three-member tribunal—consisting of NLD auxiliary CEC member U Kyaw Ho, Mandalay Division NLD chairperson U Tin Htut Oo and CEC member Daw Lei Lei—will submit their verdicts to the party’s CEC for approval.

On Monday and Tuesday, tribunal hearings—with the participation of U Win Htein—were held for the case concerning Shan State NLD chairperson Daw Khine Moe Moe, and then for the joint case concerning members Daw Mee Mee and Daw Yuumi Zaw.

Monday’s session took place at the Unison restaurant in Naypyidaw, and Tuesday’s was held in a private home in Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri Township.

Hearings for the case concerning NLD Taunggyi District chairperson U Tin Maung Toe will begin on Friday. Testimonies from the disputing parties will be followed by witness testimonies in later sessions.

Witnesses to be presented by U Win Htein include lawmakers in the Upper and Lower houses of the Union Parliament representing Shan State, and a former candidate for the Shan State parliament. U Tin Maung Toe told reporters that these witnesses are all new members of the party, holding junior internal positions.

After Tuesday’s session concluded, the appealing NLD members told reporters that U Win Htein had acted alone in ordering their dismissals and demotions, without the approval of the party’s CEC.

“When we asked for proof of whether he was acting in line with a CEC decision, he said there wasn’t any [proof],” said Daw Khin Moe Moe.

She told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that U Win Htein “refused to answer” a question as to whether State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—who still leads the party—allowed him to use her name when dismissing and demoting the members. According to these members, he had claimed to be acting under her permission at the time.

U Win Htein was circumspect while talking to reporters on Tuesday, saying, “The NLD works in accordance with its rules and regulations, which we are now demonstrating.”

He said, “I believe the tribunal will decide without prejudice, therefore I answered honestly.”

Daw Khin Moe Moe claimed that U Win Htein’s actions against them were aimed at smoothing the way for “opportunists” to get more senior positions within the party.

If any of the disputants are unhappy about the verdicts reached by the tribunal, they can appeal them at a national-level party conference, according to tribunal head U Kyaw Ho, who is also a practicing lawyer.