USDP parody of NLD song provokes outrage, charges of defamation

Supporters of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) are crying foul after political rivals turned a song associated with the party into a slanderous attack on their leader.

At a recent campaign event in Mandalay region, backers of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) played a song that labelled NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi the “slave wife” of a foreigner and accused the party of “demolishing the religion.”

Members of the NLD have filed a case against the USDP for playing the song at rallies in Natogyi township, in Mandalay’s Myingyin district, last Sunday.

They say the song violates election rules against using nationalism, religion and personal slander to incite voters.

The song is based upon “The Sound of Heels,” which is widely regarded as an unofficial victory anthem of the ruling party. In the USDP version, however, it contains lines that echo the propaganda of Myanmar’s former military regime.

“The NLD is a party of convicts. It’s the party of Muslim peacocks who have tried to destroy Buddhism,” the parody song proclaims

These include references to Suu Kyi as a race traitor for marrying a British national, the late academic Michael Aris, and claims that the NLD is working “for the benefit of the Muslims.”

In a video obtained by Myanmar Now, the song can be heard playing at rallies organised by the USDP in several villages in Natogyi over the weekend. 

“The NLD is a party of convicts. It’s the party of Muslim peacocks who have tried to destroy Buddhism. Let’s all kick out the NLD, which is trying to destroy our religion. Let’s kick it out. Let’s fight against it,” the song proclaims at one point.

It goes on to accuse Suu Kyi of turning the nation “into a whorehouse” and “accepting Bengali Muslims as if they were gods.”

The chair of the NLD’s victory committee in Natogyi, Maung Thu, has filed a lawsuit against those involved in broadcasting the song. 

In an official letter sent to the Natogyi township court on Monday, Maung Thu accused the USDP of using “defamatory words” against State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at rallies in the villages of Wat Lu and Pae Chat in Natogyi.

The court has instructed police to look into the case.

“They parodied an NLD song to promote nationalism and religious chauvinism. They attacked the state counsellor,” said Maung Thu, explaining why he brought the issue to court.

“I was literally shaking. I don’t appreciate it at all,” songwriter Bo Thurein said of the parody version of his song 

Myint Hlaing Oo, the chief officer at the Wat Lu police station, confirmed that he was instructed to look into the incident and report back to the township court, but said he could provide no further details.

“The court has accepted the case, but nothing much has happened,” he said.

It remains unclear if the people involved in the campaign are being investigated or what charges they might face.

According to lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, it would be up to a judge to decide how the matter is handled. He suggested that the USDP supporters could be charged under section 505(b) of the penal code, which criminalizes speech that “is likely to cause fear or alarm in the public.”

“Section 505 (b) talks about statements or rumours, so the song could be considered a statement. The judge will now have to decide if this parody song could be considered an act intended to incite any person or group of people to commit an offence against the state or the public tranquillity,” he said.

“The Sound of Heels” was originally written by Bo Thurein and sung by Mi Mi Lay, Myanmar citizens living in Japan, and was donated to the NLD to be used as a campaign song.

The original song describes the NLD as a party of the people and praises Aung San Suu Kyi for her love of the country.  Songwriter Bo Thurein told Myanmar Now that he was deeply upset when he heard about the parody version.

“I was literally shaking. I don’t appreciate it at all. I couldn’t even listen to the entire thing,” he said, adding that it was deliberately intended to offend.

A comparison of the original lyrics in the NLD victory song and the parody version the USDP supporters played. 

Myo Gyi, another Myanmar citizen resident in Japan, was responsible for distributing the song and raising donations for the NLD. He said the USDP should take responsibility for this incident.

“I’m a very irritable person and want to explode and go wild, but I can’t. We can’t lose our success over this. The public needs to know this is a very important time. There are only 13 days left before the election, so we will tolerate this,” he said.

“Party supporters are not members of the party. The law doesn’t say anything about punishments for this,” said Natogyi township sub-election commission chair Mya Maung.

USDP representatives were contacted for comment but did not reply.

Locals say that USDP candidate Nyan Htun Aung, a former colonel and minister of transport and communications, was present at the campaign rally, but this has not been confirmed.

Natogyi township sub-election commission chair Mya Maung said there was no evidence that the USDP candidate or his representatives were directly responsible for playing the song, so it was unlikely he would face punishment.

“Party supporters are not members of the party. The law doesn’t say anything about punishments for this,” he said.

According to the Political Parties Registration Act, any statement or campaign activity that could cause conflict between people of different religions or affect the integrity of groups or individuals is banned, and any political party or candidate found guilty of violating this ban will be disqualified.

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