26 USDP supporters face charges after clash with NLD rivals in Hinthada

More than two dozen supporters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) are facing criminal charges after a massive rally in Ayeyarwady region’s Hinthada township turned violent over the weekend.

Local sources told Myanmar Now that fights broke out on Saturday after thousands of USDP supporters entered the village of Targwe as part of a campaign event that violated the party’s own ban on mass gatherings.

The clashes reportedly started when the USDP marchers began provoking local backers of the rival National League for Democracy (NLD).

Aung Thi Su, who was one of 11 people who pressed charges against 26 USDP supporters on Sunday, said that many people were injured in the fighting, including one who suffered a broken leg.

There were also reports of extensive damage to property, he said, including an NLD signboard, a car, a motorbike, and several rooftops.

Police said that the sheer size of the crowd made it difficult for four officers who were at the scene to stop the fighting.

“The fighting didn’t continue longer or cause more injuries because our task force was able to bring it under control. If they hadn’t, the consequences would have been dire,” said police inspector Nay Zin of the Number 2 Police Station.

The 26 USDP supporters are charged with causing physical harm, destroying private property, committing obscene acts, and intimidation.

According to Aung Si Thu, the riot started when villagers who supported the NLD fought back against USDP supporters who lifted their longyis and threw stones at them.

“We did a march, too, but it didn’t cause this kind of chaos. They were disrespecting the town as if it were a lawless place. They were making a mockery of the rule of law. We simply won’t tolerate this kind of behavior,” he said.

Htay Win, a spokesperson for the Hinthada township chapter of the USDP, told Myanmar Now that the fighting started when NLD supporters tried to stop his party’s march. He added that 11 USDP members were injured in the clashes and would also be pressing charges.

He acknowledged that the USDP had called for an end to large public gatherings, but said it was difficult to control party members when the NLD was still holding rallies.

He called on the government and the Union Election Commission to enforce restrictions on the size of political events.

“Both sides are breaking the rules with all this marching,” he said.

Win Maung, the chair of the Hinthada district election commission, said that the USDP rally had been approved, but was far larger than it was supposed to be. He added that the march did not get permission to go to Targwe.

Speaking to Myanmar Now on Monday, Win Maung said that election officials had met with representatives of both parties to urge them to respect UEC guidelines on the size of gatherings.

“We told them not to have large crowds at their next campaign events. They should also bring people who are able to influence the crowd, starting with people at the township level. But it’s all talk, because they can’t control their supporters,” he said.

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