Myanmar President Thein Sein has moved to consolidate his power in the country’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) by forcing out his chief rival Shwe Mann as party chairman, months ahead of a November general election. Shwe Mann was removed from his position as “acting” chairman of the ruling party because he was too busy with his other role as the country’s influential parliamentary speaker, the USDP said in a statement Thursday. The shakeup follows reports that security forces had surrounded USDP headquarters in the capital Naypyidaw late on Wednesday, preventing some members from leaving, and possibly taking Shwe Mann into custody.
““While the USDP has described the incident at its headquarters as an internal party matter, we are concerned about the apparent use of state security forces to help resolve the dispute,” the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said in a statement.
According to the USDP statement, Thein Sein has been appointed chairman, but new vice chair Htay Oo will assume the duties due to restrictions on the president’s role in party politics.
The decision was made by the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) in Naypyidaw following an overnight announcement of a reshuffle in the cabinet, the statement said. Party candidates for the elections were also announced internally at Wednesday’s meeting.