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Business associations ease way for members to enter parliament

By Kyaw Hsu Mon
October 11 - 17, 2010
Dr Khin Shwe
Dr Tin Tun Oo
U Win Myint
U Htay Myint.
USDP candidates (from top) Dr Khin Shwe, Dr Tin Tun Oo, U Win Myint and U Htay Myint. Pics: Archive

MANY professional associations have amended their constitutions in the lead up to the November 7 election, allowing members and office bearers to become party members and even candidates.

The groups bill themselves as non-governmental and previously required members to be apolitical, at least publicly. However, since the announcement in 2008 that multi-party elections would be held this year, most associations have liberalised their policy as it was clear some of their members would take part as candidates.

As many as 10 senior members of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), which describes itself as “a national level non-governmental organisation representing and safeguarding the interest of private business sector”, will stand as candidates for Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), National Unity Party (NUP) or as independents.

“As the provision stating [members] shall be apolitical was amended in the articles of association, they can contest without having to resign from the organ-isation,” a UMFCCI spokesperson said.

UMFCCI chairman U Win Myint, who is also chairman of Shwe Nagar Min company, will contest Sagaing Region Amyotha Hluttaw Constituency 3, which includes Kanbalu, Kyunhla, Ye-u and Taze townships, as a USDP candidate.

The UMFCCI also has 50 sister organisations that are formed or being formed as separate and smaller organisations representing specific industries.

The spokesperson said there were also some election candidates in these smaller associations but the exact number was not known.

The Myanmar Fisheries Federation is comprised of fishery and livestock entrepreneurs and has become well-known for the almost weekly seminars it has hosted over the past three years. The meetings, which have focused on a wide range of topics, are presented by high-profile experts.

The federation’s chairman, U Htay Myint, who is also chairman of Yuzana company, will stand as a USDP Pyuthu Hluttaw candidate in Myeik. Five other members of the federation will also stand as candidates, a fisheries federation spokesperson said.

“The federation amended the provision stating members shall be apolitical in 2007,” the spokesperson said. “None of the six are standing as independent candidates.”

At its annual general meeting on September 4 , the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA) also agreed to amend the provision in its constitution that members are unable to join political parties.

Consequently, five MCEA members, including president Dr Khin Shwe, chairman of Zaykabar Construction, will stand as USDP candidates.

At least three members of Myanmar Engineering Society, an industry assoc-iation carrying out capacity-building and disaster preparedness activities, will also run as USDP candidates.

However, unlike their counterparts at the UMFCCI, MFF and MCEA, the three Myanmar Engineering Society members who will contest the election – including Central Executive Committee mem-bers U Nyan Htun Oo and Dr Khin Maung Htun – have already tended their resignations, as per society rules.

“The organisation has had the provision stating it shall be apolitical since its establishment [in 1996]. We can only amend articles of the association’s constitution at our annual general meeting and we will consider doing this at our next meeting in January,” said U Ko Ko Gyi, the society’s joint general secretary. “For the time being there has been no change at all to our rules.”

Another association that has maintained its apolitical stance is the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association, which was established in 1989.

Four senior members, including chairman U Tin Kha and vice chairman Dr Tin Tun Oo, the publisher of The Myanmar Times, resigned their posts on August 27, three days before the deadline to register as candidates for this year’s election. All four will stand as USDP candidates.

“As we are an independent association, we have a rule that our members must not join a political party. As they are preparing to participate in election as candidates of a party, they had to resign according to our rules,” association secretary U Ko Ko said, adding that they would be welcome to rejoin the association if they resigned from the USDP.

– Translated by Thit Lwin