NUP campaign promises immunity from regime abuses

September 2, 2010

HURFOM: While the USDP has thus far dominated most accounts of government support and abuse against civilians prior to the 2010 election, the NUP has also returned to again contest Burma’s national election. The NUP, intending to raise membership and support before going to the polls, has been coercing the support of voters through incentives of protection against current government abuses. This tactic indicates strong ties with government support despite election laws.

On the 17th and 18th of August, the National Unity Party (NUP), worked to organize 50 people from each Mon village in southern and northern Ye Township, Mon State, to cast votes in favor of NUP party candidates and issued permanent member cards to those people from each Mon village. The NUP, which originally was formed in 1989 by members of the defunct Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), to contest the 1990 elections, reregistered to contest the 2010 election. After the recent candidate registration deadline, the NUP will field more then 800 candidates in the upper and lower house, the second largest candidate list next to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

U Hla Maung, 45, who is chairperson of the NUP, has been organizing at the local level, with campaign messages highlighting the guaranteed changes the NUP can make, and that they want to support Mon ethnicity. At a community speech on August 17th, U Hla Maung was quoted by a HURFOM researcher who attended as saying, “Our party will work hard for Mon people”. U Hla Maung is one of the 800 candidates fielded by the NUP.

Through its campaign in Ang Tan village, Hne Hnor village, Ah-Bal village, in northern Ye Township, the NUP has also issued permanent party member cards for 50 key members from each of those villages. Nai Nyut, who has decided to become one of the 50 key members when the NUP issued party member cards on August 20th, explained what benefits he can get as a NUP party member:

According to what U Hla Maung said, as a holder of an NUP party member card, you will not be stopped by traffic police officers while travelling in Ye Township, none of your family member have to go for Loh Ah Pay [forced labor] while other people have to go for it, and you also do not need to worry about taxation charged by the army.

On August 19th and 20th, Ye Township NUP’s members also organized the party’s campaign in Ka Law village and Han Kan village, in southern Ye Township. Ko Maung Nge, 29, who is working for a local NGO as an intern and was an eye-witness to the activities of NUP members campaigning in the area on August 22nd:

If the villagers from these villages become party members and vote for NUP, they do not need to worry about motorbike confiscation, taxation charges, and Loh Ah Pay work [forced labor], so said the key party members through their campaign activities. Through the campaign, the key party members have new members join, but I cannot estimate how many new members they get. I do know, however, that the NUP is the party at one time formed by General Ne Win. Because this party was once formed by Gen. Ne Win, even though [it says it will] give equal rights, for me, I do not believe in it. The people who do not think like what I think will regret it later on after becoming its [NUP] members. We are the ones who have to write our history. And although prisoners may escape from prisons, it is not considered that they are free. By thinking deeply, no one [should] want to vote in this forthcoming election.

An anonymous villager, from Ye township, who works as a merchant, highlighted why he had joined the NUP:

In my opinion, the citizens can vote for the party that they want to. No one can prevent them from [voting for] which party they want to vote. Persuading people to vote for the party is like how other military regime ruled countries held the election. Apparently, this is called vote-buying. We [our party members] will not do like that. We believe our people. We’ve already known what our people’s real attitude is, and then we will serve our duty for our people fairly.

A monk who preferred to remain anonymous , 40, who lives in Ye Township and teaches Mon language, expressed his concern that the NUP’s campaign making promises that only the government can keep:

There is no need to be doubtful [about that] the government supports this political party in many ways. We can know exactly whether it is right or not when we hear of what they [NUP party members] promise to do. Without any support from the government, they [NUP party members] can’t guarantee that there will be no more Lok Ah Pay [forced labor], motorbike confiscations, and taxation charges.

While the NUP is not the favored of the government parties in the coming election, it still apparently retains its strong connection to the current government. Promises that holding a NUP card stop some of the more frequent abuses highlights the NUP’s continued relationship with government forces. Parties like the All Mon Region Democratic Party (AMRDP) and other ethnic and independent parties that are not affiliated with the regime are substantially limited in the claims they can make, as they do not hold power over junta administrative and military forces. However, the advantage accrued by the NUP from its relationship with the current regime apparently gives NUP cards sway over government administrators and soldiers, as if the NUP were already a victorious party. This would substantiate claims by the critics that the closeness of this relationship violates election laws set by the current regime.


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