Military-backed USDP holds ‘weapons-granting ceremony’ in Naypyitaw

Two retired generals handed out bamboo spikes to nearly 200 members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) at a “weapons-granting ceremony” in Naypyitaw last week.

The event, which was captured on a 35-minute-long video that was widely shared on pro-junta social media pages, took place in Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri Township on February 21.

In the video—which soon disappeared from the social media accounts that originally posted it—retired Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing and retired Maj-Gen Soe Naing could be seen giving the makeshift weapons and uniforms to rank-and-file members of the military proxy party.

Myint Hlaing hands out bamboo spikes to USDP members in Naypyitaw on February 21 (Myanmar National Post)

The video also shows Myint Hlaing, who previously served in the quasi-civilian administration of former president Thein Sein as agriculture minister, stating that it was “only natural” to arm pro-military civilians.

Known during his tenure as minister as “one-meal Myint Hlaing” for his advice to farmers—to eat only one meal a day if they couldn’t afford to repay their agricultural loans—Myint Hlaing also praised the military for seizing power two years ago.

He said the move was necessary to save the country from the ousted ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which he described as “treacherous.”

“We have to set the treacherous party aside and abolish it as soon as possible. We let it live for five years, and it has destroyed the country,” Myint Hlaing told the USDP members.

He also urged them to help return the country to normal as soon as possible and asked if they thought it could be done within the extended emergency period of six months announced last month.

Myanmar Now contacted Myint Hlaing regarding his statements and his provision of weapons to the USDP members, which he said was done to “raise awareness” among backers of the junta.

“We just wanted to make sure that they knew they could use these weapons when needed. It’s just a traditional self-defence ritual. I just want to spread the knowledge that the civilians could defend themselves using such sticks and spikes and to urge them to be on high alert,” he said.

La Yaung, a member of the Naypyitaw Urban Guerrilla Force,  told Myanmar Now that anti-regime forces in the regime’s administrative capital were keeping a close watch on the USDP’s movements.

“We know everything that they’re doing. We know who attended that meeting and what weapons were given to them. We also know what their next actions are going to be,” he said.

The chair of the USDP in Naypyitaw is Hla Swe, better known as Bullet Hla Swe, who has a history of making inflammatory remarks about the NLD.

It’s unknown, however, what percentage of the party’s members support the February 2021 coup. Observers have noted that even areas won by the USDP in the 2020 election have participated in “silent strikes” against the regime.

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