Former members gather in attempt to revive disbanded Rose Party

Officials of the dissolved United Democratic Party (UDP)—whose former chairman is currently imprisoned—met in Yangon on Tuesday to discuss plans to re-register and participate in a junta-organised election this year. 

Former regional and state-level officials of the UDP—also popularly known as the Rose Party—attended the meeting. 

“We have plans to rebuild the party, but we are still negotiating with each other about how to make it happen,” a party official who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity. 

Whether the party will be permitted to register under the military council’s Political Parties Registration Law is still under discussion, party officials told Myanmar Now, and the details of the discussion remain undisclosed. 

During the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, the UDP was dissolved less than a month before the general election of November 2020 for possession of illegal funds. It would be required to re-register under a new name before contesting future elections. 

Kyaw Myint, chairman of the disbanded Rose Party, was arrested in 2020 for financial crimes (as well as an immigration charge that was later dropped) and is currently serving his sentence in Yangon’s Insein Prison on multiple charges.

The February 7 meeting in Yangon examined questions about the party’s re-registration and other future plans, and the details of the discussion will likely be released after February 15, the party official said.

The UDP’s former secretary Thidar Zin and her husband have been trying to revive the party since the middle of last year, but most of its previous central committee has not rejoined, former party members said. 

Ahead of  the 2020 election, the UDP had established branch offices in nearly every Myanmar township and a national membership of nearly 6 million, the party’s joint secretary Thike Tun said.

The UDP’s office in Yangon’s Hlaing Township in August 2022 (Myanmar Now)

The party registered before the 2010 election, but won no seats in parliament that year or in the 2015 general elections. After an exponential growth in membership, the party nominated parliamentary candidates for 1,130 constituencies in the 2020 election and had the second-highest number of parliamentary candidates nationwide, after the NLD. 

However, these candidates lost the opportunity to compete when the Union Election Commission dissolved the UDP after Kyaw Myint was charged with money laundering and fled prosecution. 

State-level investigations after Kyaw Myint’s arrest in late 2020 found that he had received a transfer of 16bn kyat (worth around $12m at the time) from China, conducted an unlicensed money lending business, and acquired properties by illegal means. 

During the NLD government, the President’s Office released a statement saying the Rose Party spent nearly 14bn kyat on its campaigns between October 2018 and September 2020. The statement also noted that the UDP failed to follow legal procedures in purchasing more than 100 acres of real estate in Yangon Region’s Hmawbi Township and in Naypyitaw, where the party had its headquarters.  

Junta officials and pro-junta media have pointed to the dissolution of the UDP as an indication that the 2020 election was not free or fair, which was part of the military’s pretext for seizing power in February 2021. 

“A new party supported by working-class people was completely disbanded for allegedly receiving financial support from a neighbouring country,” the regime mouthpiece Myanma Alinn argued in a September 2021 editorial. 

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has also criticised the dissolution of the UDP under the the NLD government.

The junta has not yet clearly stated whether it will allow the UDP to re-register or participate in future elections. 

Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun, the regime’s spokesperson, said during a press conference in September of last year that a review had found that “some actions were taken rightfully against the party because their actions violated some laws and bylaws.” He did not, however, comment on charges still pending against the UDP.

According to the military council’s Political Parties Registration Law, announced in late January, the party would have to open at least 160 party offices within 180 days and recruit 100,000 party members within three months in order to compete in the election at the Union level. 

The party will still be considered dissolved if its registration is not completed within 60 days after law came into effect on January 26. Party leaders have observed that the number of Union-level political parties will likely decrease due to the strictures of the registration law. 

According to the statement by the junta’s election commission, the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and the Federal Democratic Party—led by the daughters of former prime minister U Nu—applied to register within two weeks of the registration law’s enactment. 

Related Articles

Back to top button