Ousted head of Myanmar ruling party vows to keep working for nation; media outlets muzzled

The timing of Shwe Mann's ousting came just before Friday's deadline for candidates to register to stand in the polls. PHOTO: AFP
The timing of Shwe Mann's ousting came just before Friday's deadline for candidates to register to stand in the polls. PHOTO: AFPPHOTO: AFP

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) - The ousted leader of Myanmar's ruling party on Friday vowed to "continue to work" for the country, in his first comments after an unexpected internal putsch ahead of landmark November elections, as media outlets linked to him seemed to have been gagged.

Mr Shwe Mann was removed as head of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on Thursday after a night of high political drama, which saw security forces enter the party base in the capital Naypyidaw.

The sudden ouster followed months of bitter infighting within the party ahead of the Nov 8 polls, which are seen as a major test of the former junta-ruled nation's transition to democracy.

In a post on his official Facebook page on Friday afternoon, the former party chief, considered among the most reform-minded members of the USDP and also parliamentary speaker, showed no visible sign of anger at his unceremonious departure.

Instead he thanked the public for their support and vowed to keep working.

"Thank you to everyone who has been in touch for their kindness, love and sympathy," said the post beneath a photo of the speaker writing at a desk.

"I will continue to work for the prosperity of all till my last breath by respecting people's love and benevolence," it added.

The photo accompanying the post showed Mr Shwe Mann sitting at a desk with a computer and two books by the American motivational speaker John C Maxwell, including one titled "How Successful People Think".

The timing of Shwe Mann's ousting came just before Friday's deadline for candidates to register to stand in the polls.

Media outlets linked to him also appeared to have been censored in the immediate aftermath of the putsch.

The Union Daily, the USDP's own newspaper, was ordered to cease publication on Thursday, a senior editor at the paper who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

The general manager of private radio station Cherry FM, whose managing director is Mr Shwe Mann's daughter-in-law, also said its broadcasting had been interrupted since Thursday morning.

"We don't know why yet," the station's general manager Than Htwe Zaw said.

Party leaders have sought to downplay the exit of such a senior ruling party figure after months of rumours of a rift between him and President Thein Sein.

Mr Shwe Mann had been billed as a possible compromise candidate for the presidency as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - whose party is expected to make large gains at the polls - is barred from the top job by the junta-era Constitution.

He had previously expressed a willingness to work with the Nobel laureate and had supported a recent failed attempt by opposition groups in Parliament to roll back the army's legislative power.

As the former junta-ruled nation readies for what are expected to be Myanmar's freest and fairest elections in decades, Mr Shwe Mann's ousting with the support of police officers raised concerns among western nations.

The United States expressed concerns over the "apparent use of state security forces" to manage Mr Shwe Mann's exit, calling for the protection of public trust in the democratic process.

Washington's comments were echoed in a statement released late on Thursday by the British embassy in Yangon.

"Public trust in the democratic process is essential as we approach the elections in November," it said.

Speaking to AFP earlier, Mr Shwe Mann's son said that the extra security forces deployed at the party compound early Thursday had now disbanded.

On Friday, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP his party would not comment in detail until further information over Mr Shwe Mann's exit became available.

"We think it's an important case. We are still watching the situation," he said.