Po­lice seize Myan­mar’s rul­ing party head­quar­ters


Se­cu­rity forces seized con­trol of the head­quar­ters of Myan­mar’s rul­ing party as in­ter­nal rifts in­ten­si­fied ahead of gen­eral elec­tions. The party chair­man, who has steadily lost sup­port of the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, was holed up in his home af­ter be­ing re­moved from his post dur­ing the ag­gres­sive mid­night reshuf­fle.

Ten­sions have been build­ing for months be­tween Pres­i­dent Thein Sein and Shwe Mann, who up un­til Wed­nes­day led the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party.

The men, both re­tired army gen­er­als, each have ex­pressed in­ter­est in lead­ing the coun­try.

An in­ter­nal meet­ing was held Wed­nes­day at the rul­ing party head­quar­ters in the cap­i­tal, Naypyitaw, to an­nounced can­di­dates for the up­com­ing polls.

Mem­bers also were told Shwe Mann had been dis­missed as party chair, spark­ing out­cry by some. It was not clear if he will stay on as the in­flu­en­tial speaker of par­lia­ment.

“I heard some­thing is go­ing on with the chang­ing of party lead­ers or high­rank­ing of­fices,” Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion Ye Htut said on his Face­book page, adding there was lit­tle more he could say as it was an in­ter­nal party mat­ter.

Myan­mar only re­cently be­gan tran­si­tion­ing from a half- cen­tury of dic­ta­to­rial rule to democ­racy.

The Nov. 8 gen­eral elec­tion will be the first since a nom­i­nally civil­ian gov­ern­ment was in­stalled in 2011. But with the mil­i­tary still firmly in con­trol of the process, there has been wide­spread spec­u­la­tion as to whether it will be free and fair. Op­po­si­tion leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who en­joys huge public sup­port, is barred from run­ning for pres­i­dent but is seek­ing re- elec­tion to Par­lia­ment.

There was no public ex­pla­na­tion Thurs­day for Shwe Mann’s ouster. He was tem­po­rar­ily re­placed as party chair by his deputy, Htay Oo, the party said on its web­site.

Wit­nesses said trucks started ar­riv­ing at the USDP head­quar­ters on Wed­nes­day night. Sol­diers and po­lice were seen en­ter­ing the build­ing and some party mem­bers were pre­vented from leav­ing, though by Thurs­day af­ter­noon only a few po­lice were de­ployed at the gate of sprawl­ing com­pound.

Thein Sein was hand­picked by for­mer dic­ta­tor Than Shwe and has re­tained the sup­port of the armed forces de­spite im­ple­ment­ing some re­forms, in­clud­ing the free­ing up of the media and the re­lease of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers — though there have been hun­dreds of new ar­rests un­der his watch.

He was hold­ing an emer­gency meet­ing with cab­i­net mem­bers Thurs­day.

Shwe Mann’s re­la­tion­ship with the mil­i­tary, mean­while, has de­te­ri­o­rated steadily in the last year.

Seen as a re­formist — and an ally of Suu Kyi — he was ac­cused by mil­i­tary MPs re­cently of cre­at­ing “mis­un­der­stand­ings” be­tween the public and the armed forces.

That fol­lowed his sup­port for a call in par­lia­ment to amend Ar­ti­cle 436 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which gives the mil­i­tary the power to veto all amend­ments.

A wit­ness said Shwe Mann’s home se­cu­rity of­fi­cial was seen be­ing ques­tioned by the chief of po­lice. Not seen pub­li­cally since the news, he was be­lieved to be in­side.

“My fa­ther is right now at his home in Naypyitaw with the se­cu­rity guards,” said Toe Naing Mann, Shwe Mann’s son. “I don’t know whether he is al­lowed to go out or now.”


In this Wed­nes­day, Aug 12 photo, Myan­mar’s Par­lia­ment Speaker Shwe Mann leaves af­ter a press con­fer­ence at the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party head­quar­ters in Naypyitaw, Myan­mar.

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