Tue 30 May 2006
Filed under: News,On The Border
A new report issued on Tuesday by a Burmese exile opposition group says the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association aims to become a major political force in the country.
The Thailand-based Network for Democracy and Development’s 88-page report, White Shirts: How the USDA Will Become the New Face of Burma’s Dictatorship, documents the group’s current involvement in the development of future political policy.
The USDA currently holds a majority of seats-some 633, or 58 percent-at the constitution-drafting National Convention, according to Khin Ohnmar, chairperson of NDD.
â€œIt appears that the USDA is to fill the vacuum left by military, which will be entitled to one fourth of the seats in any future parliament,â€ Khin Ohnmar told The Irrawaddy today.
Despite government claims that USDA membership has increased since its founding in 1993, the NDD says most members were recruited by harassment and intimidation, based on its research and interviews with 20 USDA members.
â€œThey [the government] claim to have 28 million members, but most were recruited against their will,â€ Khin Ohnmar said. â€œOur study found that the organization has recruited basically among civil servants, businessmen, political activists, teachers and students,â€ she added.
The NDD report says the pseudo-political organization is principally an instrument of the regime which carries out violent acts against opposition activists and the local population at large. It also notes that the group has established militias and actively participates in the surveillance and arrest of political dissidents.
â€œThe real intention of the organization is not as clear as it seems, and one shouldn’t take it lightly,â€ Khin Ohnmar warned.
The release of the report coincides with the third anniversary of a deadly attack on Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage in Sagaing Division on May 30, 2003, in which the USDA is widely believed to have played a prominent role.
â€œOver the years, the degree of harassment, intimidation and outright violence the USDA has inflicted on the people of Burma has contributed to creating a climate of fear in the country,â€ Surapong Jayanama, the former Thai ambassador to Burma, said in the report.