Election commission dissolves United Democratic Party for possessing illegal funds

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission has disbanded the United Democratic Party (UDP) and disqualified its candidates from running as MPs in next month’s election after it found the party in possession of illegal funds.

The President’s Office announced last week that the party’s chair Kyaw Myint had illegally received the equivalent of millions of US dollars from China. Kyaw Myint was arrested last month for escaping from a Mandalay prison in 1999. 

The commission announced the party’s dissolution on Saturday, saying it was in violation of the political parties registration law, which bars parties from receiving or using funds, property or aid from foreign governments, organisations or religious institutions.

The party violated section 12a iv of the law and sections 15b, c and f of a related by-law, the commission said.

The announcement comes two days after the President’s Office said Kyaw Myint had violated anti-money laundering laws by receiving 16bn kyat ($12.2m) from China in 2015 and had conducted several illegal business activities.

Spokesperson Zaw Htay did not provide details on who sent the money, but said that Kyaw Myint later spent 1.4bn kyat ($1.07m) to fund party activities across the country.

The party was standing over 1,130 candidates, the second largest number after the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and more than the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Gannes, a former UDP candidate running for a seat in the Kachin state parliament, told Myanmar Now he will appeal to the commission to allow him to run as independent because he resigned from the party before it was dissolved. 

The NLD’s spokesperson Myo Nyunt said the UDP was not a political rival of his party and its dissolution will not affect the NLD.

“I think the commission did not do this for anyone’s political advantage,” Myo Nyunt told Myanmar Now. “The commission took action against the UDP so close to election day because it is an important legal issue,” he added.

The UDP was registered as a political party in May 2010 and competed in the 2010 and 2015 elections. It has never won a seat.

Michael Kyaw Myint Hua Hu, as he is also known, was accused of laundering drug money for the United Wa State Army in the 1990s and was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 for flouting Myanmar’s business laws.

He escaped from Mandalay’s Obo prison in 1999, and took asylum in the US and then Canada, where he founded the UDP in 2007. 

Authorities arrested the 69-year-old in late September after the publication of several media reports about his shady past. 

He is now being held at Obo prison and has been charged under section 224 of the Penal Code for escaping. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. 

He will also be made to serve the remainder of his original nine-year sentence.

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