Myanmar security forces bar ruling party members from leaving headquarters

A car at the entrance of Myanmar's Union Solidarity and Development Party's office in Naypyitaw. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar security forces entered the headquarters of the country's ruling party as it held a conference on upcoming elections, according to the son of the powerful speaker, who said there were also "guards" at his father's house.

The moves comes amid an ongoing tussle for control of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) ahead of the November elections.

"Police entered the party compound last night. Since then no one was allowed in or out," Toe Naing Mann, son of parliament speaker and USDP leader Shwe Mann, told AFP on Thursday morning.

He added that "so-called guards" were also at his father's residence in the capital Naypyidaw.

Political tensions are seething ahead of the country's planned Nov 8 polls, which many hope will be the freest in decades.

They are set to be contested by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was a thorn in the side of the previous junta regime with her years of campaigns for democracy.

Toe Naing Mann, who said he was monitoring the situation through contacts from Yangon, said it was not clear what was behind the move by security personnel late Wednesday.

"It is strange that armed forces have restricted a political party in this way," he told AFP.

Recent months have seen growing talk of animosity between Shwe Mann and President Thein Sein, both former generals who shed their uniforms to take part in controversial 2010 polls that heralded a new quasi-civilian government which has ushered in sweeping reforms.

The USDP has been the vehicle for the former junta elites to metamorphose from soldiers to MPs.

Shwe Mann has publicly welcomed the idea of working closely with Suu Kyi and has set himself up in opposition to the still powerful army on key issues - including on constitutional reform debates that centred on reducing the military's political power.

On Wednesday, senior USDP member Aung Ko told AFP that the party had received "more than a hundred" applications from recently retired military officers and cabinet ministers looking to stand in the elections for the party.

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