Myanmar’s powerful ruling party chief Shwe Mann has been ousted from his post, party members said on Thursday, apparently after losing a power struggle with President Thein Sein three months before a general election.
The struggle between the two old rivals became public in a dramatic way late on Wednesday evening, when security forces surrounded the vast headquarters of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the capital, Naypyitaw.
Shwe Mann’s ouster from the party follows rare discord within the establishment over the role of the military, which handed power to a semi-civilian government in 2011 but retains an effective veto over the political system.
Shwe Mann had built ties with Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has called repeatedly for the military to withdraw from politics, and he angered the military by supporting an attempt in parliament in June to amend the constitution to limit the military’s political role.
It is unclear what the changes mean for the reform agenda in Myanmar, but the heavy-handed involvement of the security forces smacks of the junta-era approach to resolving political disputes.
“It’s an unwanted and extreme step to do this,” said Khin Zaw Win, Director of the Tampadipa Institute, a policy advocacy group, and advisor to multiple MPs.
“They are using security apparatus to affect a reshuffle in the party. They should have settled this some other way rather than using brute force. This is a reminder of the very unhappy past.”
In a brief statement on Thursday, the USDP said that…