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USDP gives loans to farmers who sign their votes away

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma’s main junta-backed political party is reportedly giving agricultural loans to farmers in Kungyangone Township, Rangoon Division at the rate of 50,000 Kyat per acre. The loan was apparently conditional upon them
signing a statement vowing to join and vote for the party.

Farmers can borrow from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for a maximum of five acres (two hectares) at 2 per cent interest, a farmer from Seikphyu told Mizzima.

USDP campaigners were apparently extending a policy used in other areas of Burma, tying such soft loans to votes, now to farmers in villages including Painetan, Phayalayngu, Zaphyuthan, Bantbwaygone, Tawkhayangyi, Tawkhanlay, Tawbuugyi,
Khalauksan, Khalauktayar villages in Kungyangone Township.

“They told all eligible voters of these farmers’ families to vote for the USDP,” the farmer from Seikphyu said. “Village Peace and Development Council chairmen forced some of these families to sign on papers during door-to-door visits. So some of them unwittingly the paper and filled in their names.”

The canvassers gave loans only to farmers who vowed to join the party and vote for it in the upcoming nationwide elections, Burma’s first for two decades on November 7.

“They didn’t lend money to everyone. They lent money only after getting the promise to vote for the USDP. Those who refused didn’t get the money … [But] if the entire village joined the party, the total amount of the agricultural loans would be too high”,
a farmer from Kungyangone said.

The township is the constituency reserved for Energy Minister Lun Thi in upcoming election.

The party was reported earlier to be spending public money in other townships in Rangoon Division through such means as building roads, bridges, health clinics, while other political parties face harassment from local authorities.

Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP) and 88 Generation Students and Youths (Union of Myanmar) recently conducted election campaign in Hlaingtharyar Township and local authorities later questioned the people the parties’
canvassers had met.

“As soon as our party organisers left their canvassing area, USDP members and authorities including the police went to every house our canvassers had paid calls on and one by one gave the reason they were just collecting information,” UMFNP
chairman Aye Lwin told Mizzima. “But the people have been scared off [supportingus] and it has severely affected our campaign. This is happening all the time.”

Other incidences of intimidation were reported this week. On Thursday, Mizzima reported that the Union Election Commission (UEC) had

handed to Special Branch police Democratic Party (Myanmar) (DPM) member lists it had submitted to the UEC last week. Officers later visited each home of the members listed and collected their personal information, along with two passport photos.

“They shouldn’t carry on like this at all. This is a thinly veiled threat against our party members. They seem be trying to scare our would-be members to stay away from us,” DPM chairman Thu Wei said.

The party’s precursor, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), was established in 1993 as social organisation with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe as patron. Its funds were then transferred to its political partner grouping, the USDP, after it became political party on July 6. Critics say its 17 top leaders including current prime minister, Thein Sein, resigned from top military ranks to continue a charade that Burma would have a civilian government should the party win, which looks inevitable given institutional bias and the party’s massive election war chest.

The USDA, often compared with Hitler’s Brown Shirts, was part of the junta’s “people’s war strategy” to create a “people’s militia” to protect the transition process (from military to civilian government) from “internal and external” threats. The 2008 constitution’s section 340 lays out the role of the “people’s military” under the leadership of the defence forces.

The State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), the official name of the military regime of Burma that seized power in 1988, was the USDA’s original patron until it was abolished in 1997 to be reconstituted as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the junta’s current name for itself. The USDA received direct and indirect financial and logistical support from the junta and was best known for its anti-democratic rallies and activities.

One of its most notable abuses was when at least 5,000 of its members attacked National League for Democracy members’ taking part in Aung San Suu Kyi’s roadshow convoy in Depayin, in May 2003. At least 70 people associated with the NLD were killed in a well-organised attack by the government-sponsored mob.

Reports circulated at the time were that the USDA had played a key role in what was described as a murder attempt against Suu Kyi.

In the September 2007 anti-junta protests across Burma, USDA members blocked roads and harassed and detained monks and civilians as they took to the streets.

Last December, around 20 USDA members attacked the Union of Myanmar National Political League members during an election-campaign talk show in Ahlat Chaung village, in Kyimyindine Township.

When it stood as a social organisation it had 15,421 branch offices across the country with more than 24 million members, according to official statements. Its students and civil servants had to resign their memberships when it was made transformed into a political party.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 August 2010 03:34 )  

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