YANGON — A group working on behalf of Thura U Shwe Mann was on the brink of releasing a Union Solidarity and Development Party manifesto incorporating a wide range of reformist policies and plans when the party leader was purged on August 12, sources close to the Speaker told Frontier. The project, which the eight-member group had been working on since October 2013, was scheduled to go live on August 13.
The SEED (‘Social Economic Environmental Development) program was aimed at reforming the government apparatus and military economic conglomerates, and had been approved by several key USDP central executive committee members.
Frontier has obtained a copy of the 177-page party manifesto and a number of related documents. A USDP internal analysis of each constituency showed that in the worst case scenario the party would win only 16 seats in the November 8 election. This was used to underscore the need for more progressive policies and a large scale media campaign to promote the planned reforms.
Several sources, all requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the existence of the project group and the manifesto, and stated that project SEED had the full backing of Thura Shwe Mann.
The overall plan included four stages: SEED, PLAN, GROW and HARVEST. SEED (planned in 2014) refers to the policy formation stage, PLANT (2015) the campaign stage, GROW (2016-2020) the implementation stage and HARVEST (2020-2025) the benefits realisation stage.
Some policies were deemed too sensitive to feature in the manifesto shown to senior party members but were included in the group’s plans, sources said. This included reforms of the Myanmar Police Force, now residing under the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs. It also envisioned for the profits of military-linked conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited to be redirected to the state budget.
Questions remain regarding involvement of the army in U Shwe Mann’s removal.
Several sources, among them a high-ranking Special Branch officer, have said that the car of former Senior General U Than Shwe was present at the USDP headquarters on August 12, indicating that the purge could have been more than a party in-fight between two presidential candidates, President U Thein Sein and U Shwe Mann, just months before the country’s landmark election.
The Phyithu Hluttaw Speaker has kept a low-profile since the August 12 incident, refusing to speak with the media and focusing on campaigning in his constituency in Phyu, where he will be running as a USDP candidate in the election.
An in depth article on project SEED will be published on October 15 in Frontier #15.