Police, soldiers surround Myanmar ruling party HQ
Chairman of Union Solidarity and Development Party reported to have been removed along with party’s general secretary

The chief of Myanmar’s ruling party has been ousted in an "authoritarian” purge as police and soldiers surrounded party headquarters, local media reported Thursday.

Union Solidarity and Development Party chairman Shwe Mann was removed from his post along with the party’s general secretary, Maung Maung Thein, after security forces arrived at the party headquarters in the capital Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday night.

The forces prevented party members from leaving and didn’t allow anyone to enter, the Voice of America website reported.

David Mathieson, an expert on Myanmar at Human Rights Watch, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the move was "an authoritarian correction to ensure vested interests” ahead of a general election in November that has been billed as a key test of Myanmar’s democratic reforms.

Shwe Mann, who is still speaker of the lower house of parliament, is a vocal reformist despite being a former general who was one of the most powerful members of the former ruling junta.

In recent months there have been reports of infighting between leaders in the USDP, which is backed by the powerful military and staffed by generals who retired to join the new government.

Shwe Mann’s relationship with the military has soured as he has supported moves to loosen the military’s grip on power. He has also grown closer to opposition leader and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Bertil Lintner, an analyst who has written several books on Myanmar, said: "I heard more than half a year ago that Shwe Mann was going to be purged because he was seen as being disloyal to the military.”

He added: "He was running around with Aung San Suu Kyi and making noises about changing the constitution to reduce the power of the military.”

It is unclear exactly which figures were behind the decision, added Mathieson.

"It’s hard to penetrate such opaque political machinations… it could be a combination of President Thein Sein and his USDP factional supporters, plus the senior leadership of the Tatmadaw [the military] who must be in agreement or connivance with this putsch.”

Party officials have not stated what administrative procedures, if any, were used to remove Shwe Mann.

"Like many things in Burma laws and regulations can be twisted to suit whatever agenda or plot senior officials want them to,” said Mathieson, using the alternative name for Myanmar.

"What constitutional ramifications it has remains to be seen as parliament resumes next Monday and Shwe Mann is still the speaker… and needs to open the session."

The USDP came to power after a discredited 2010 election. Thein Sein has brought in sweeping reforms and promised a free and fair election, which is due to take place Nov. 8.

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Last Modified: 2015-08-14 08:18:37
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