Myanmar opposition expels 4 top officials for allegedly assisting military junta

Myanmar’s deposed National League for Democracy on Friday expelled four top officials, including the party’s head of Yangon, for supporting the junta’s case against Chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi and the military’s planned election for later this year.

The NLD said in a statement that it had permanently banned Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein and three other members of the Central Committee – Sandar Min, Toe Lwin, and Win Myint Aung – for bolstering “false evidence” of bribery against Suu Kyi and using the party’s name to back “sham” polls it claims the junta will use to justify its grip on power.

The party won Myanmar’s 2020 general election in a landslide, receiving more than 82% of public support. But the military staged a coup in February 2021 after accusing the NLD of election fraud – claims it has yet to provide evidence of more than two years later.

Bo Bo Oo, who prior to the military takeover represented Yangon’s Dala township as an NLD lawmaker in the National Assembly, said the decision demonstrates the party’s ironclad opposition to military rule.

“The NLD has proved with this statement that it is going to stand firmly against the sham election that the terrorist military junta is preparing to hold because the people who have been expelled are believed to have approached and cooperated with the military on its upcoming election in the hope of getting whatever position of power they can,” he said.

The NLD’s announcement follows Phyo Min Thein’s testimony last year as a witness for the prosecution that Suu Kyi accepted 11.4 kilograms (402 ounces) of gold and cash payments from him totaling U.S.$600,000.

Suu Kyi, 77, had dismissed the claims as “absurd,” but in April a military court found her guilty of violating the country’s Anti-corruption Law and sentenced her to five years in jail.

It was the first of 11 corruption cases brought by the junta against the Nobel laureate, who served as Myanmar’s state counsellor from 2016 up until the military’s February 2021 coup.

In December, a junta court sentenced Suu Kyi to another seven years in prison on five counts of alleged corruption, bringing the total number of years she must serve in detention to 33.

Suu Kyi was arrested with former President Win Myint in Naypyidaw shortly after the military seized power. She had already spent 15 of 21 years under house arrest following her detention by the military State Peace and Development Council government in 1989 until her release in 2010.

The NLD’s announcement on Friday also followed reports that Suu Kyi refused requests by Sandar Min and Toe Lwin to visit her at Naypyidaw Prison in November.

Attempts by RFA to reach NLD representatives for comment on the decision to expel the four party leaders went unanswered, as did attempts to reach the banned members.

According to the NLD’s Human Rights Documentation Team, in the two years since the coup authorities have killed 84 party members, including three former lawmakers, and arrested at least 1,232 others.

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