Myanmar's opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party has expelled former party chairman and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann and 16 of his allies in the military-affiliated party, a senior USDP official said on Saturday.
"About 17 members who are not obeying party rules and disciplines were allowed to leave from the party," Tint Zaw, a member of the USDP's Central Committee, told RFA's Myanmar service.
Tint Zaw said the decision was taken at a meeting of senior party leaders to plan for upcoming by-elections, and that those expelled included Shwe Mann affiliates Aung Ko and Maung Maung Thein.
He did not elaborate on what party rules the party members had violated, but suggested a link between the expulsions and Shwe Mann's decision in February to accept an appointment by incoming leader Aung San Suu Kyi as chairman of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission. That body supports parliamentary committees as they amend existing laws and draft new legislation.
“Some former USDP leaders who are now members of Shwe Mann’s commission are also on the list," said Tint Zaw.
Shwe Mann served as speaker of the lower house of parliament for five years under the previous USDP government until January when deputies from National League for Democracy (NLD) party who swept Nov. 8 general elections took their seats.
As a former army general, 68-year-old Shwe Mann has deep connections to the powerful military, which had run the country for five decades until recent reforms brought in a quasi-civilian administration.
But he is also considered a reform-minded ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was appointed state counselor and foreign minister last month and is de facto head of the NLD government despite being constitutionally barred from serving as president.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Win Naing. Written in English by Paul Eckert.