Myanmar's former ruling party expels members seen as close to Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's Union Solidarity and Development Party has expelled 17 members close to Former Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann (above) and seen as cooperating with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar's Union Solidarity and Development Party has expelled 17 members close to Former Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann (above) and seen as cooperating with Aung San Suu Kyi.PHOTO: REUTERS

NAYPYIDAW (BLOOMBERG) - Myanmar's military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has expelled 17 members seen as co- operating with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, said former ruling party lawmaker Khin Shwe, who was among those kicked out.

All those expelled were close to Mr Shwe Mann, the former speaker of Parliament, who was removed as USDP leader last August in what has been called an internal party coup, Mr Khin Shwe said in a telephone interview on Monday (April 25).

Mr Shwe Mann confirmed in a post on his official Facebook page on Monday that he too had been removed from the party.

"I think they expel the people who cooperate with the new government," Mr Khin Shwe said. "Shwe Mann cooperated with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. So, from the party point of view, we are wrong. But from the country point of view, we are right."

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) trounced the ruling USDP by a nearly 10-1 margin in last November's vote, the country's first widely contested election in decades.

In the lead up to the polls, there were reports of a rift between President Thein Sein and Mr Shwe Mann, who had publicly welcomed the idea of working closely with Ms Suu Kyi.

Both Mr Shwe Mann and Mr Thein Sein were generals under the junta that ran Myanmar for a half-century before allowing a quasi- civilian government to take power following elections in 2010.

While the president's office sought to downplay the move, it was widely reported in local media that the change came after security forces surrounded the party's headquarters and prevented the departure of members meeting to finalise candidates for the election.

The NLD-dominated Parliament chose Mr Shwe Mann, who lost his seat in November's poll, to chair a powerful committee tasked with advising which laws should be written, abolished or amended.

Several of the other committee members who were in the USDP were also kicked out of the party, Mr Shwe Mann said in his Facebook post on Monday.

"Whether I am a party member or not a party member, whether I represent the party or not, I will work for the people in accordance with my own political will," Mr Shwe Mann said in his post.

Mr Thar Win, the USDP secretary for the Yangon region, declined to comment on the removals.