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USDP Fires Back at Critics

By Htet Naing Zaw 7 June 2019

YANGON—The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDP) has fired back at accusations that all the party’s assets are illegally acquired, state-owned property.

Responding to reporters at a Nyapyitaw press conference Tuesday, party spokesperson U Nanda Hla Myint said critics are trying to hurt the party’s reputation.

“Most of the accusations stem from attempts to blacken our political reputation. If they want to accuse us of using state-owned property, there are laws. We are not in control of the government today. They can specify land plots and buildings and prove they are state-owned, then claim them back legally,” he said.

The USDP evolved out of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a mass organization established by the military regime in the 1990s. In 2010, many generals resigned from the military and joined the USDP to contest that year’s elections, which the USDP had won when the National League for Democracy, the current ruling party, boycotted as unfree and unfair.

The party is widely perceived as a political proxy for the military and has faced accusations of illegally appropriating public property. The USDP acquired its assets from its predecessor, the military-established USDA. Recently, the USDP received a barrage of attacks on Facebook, with commenters calling it a “party of thieves.”

The party will follow the law if there is ever an official complaint, said U Nanda Hla Myint, insisting that the party acquired its assets legally from the government.

“We have to apply to the government. The government at that time granted appropriate land in appropriate places. We acquired ownership legally, and we didn’t confiscate [anything],” he said.

Party officials have yet to publicly disclose how assets and accounts were transferred from the USDA to the USDP when it became a political party.

When it was founded, the USDA collected public funds as a community-based organization; later, it entered party politics. It is against the law to use public funds for political party activity, said Yangon-based lawyer U Kyee Myint.

“Nobody has sued the USDP so far because they’re afraid. Daw Suu (State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) herself has to be afraid of a coup against her. As even she has fear, compromises are made in every aspect,” he said. “In fact, they(The USDP) should be sued.”

“It is of no use politically to defame us,” U Nanda Hla Myint said. “The USDP is the slave of the citizens, and is formed to serve the interests of citizens. So, I would like to urge [critics] to speak in line with the law.”

The USDP underwent a leadership change following its resounding defeat to the National League for Democracy in the 2015 election.

The party is currently led by ex-general U Than Htay. The former chairman, U Thein Sein, is now an ordinary member, though he previously served in the party’s central consultancy team. He was Myanmar’s president from 2011 to 2016.

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