Monday, June 22, 2009

Micro Credit in USDA’s Election Plan

The Irrawaddy News

The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a mass organization backed by the Burmese military junta, has expanded its micro credit projects across the country ahead of the 2010 elections.

Sources close to the USDA said that the organization has increased funding for micro loans for farmer in rural areas of Rangoon Division and other parts of the country.

“In the Eastern District of Rangoon Division, the USDA have loaned Kyat 50,000 (about US $ 50) per acre to farmers. The project started at the beginning of this monsoon season,” a source said. He added the loan project is a part of the plan by the military backed political party to win people’s hearts and minds in the coming elections.

Although micro credit has been given to farmers in some areas for the first time this season, the USDA has been making loans in other parts of Burma for at least two years.

“In Taikkyi Township, Rangoon Division, small loans have been given to farmers for two years. The farmers got Kyat 50,000 for per acre of rice field in the first year, but got more the second year,” said a USDA member in the township.

The micro credit project has given more public relations space to the junta-backed USDA. The pro-junta organization has had a bad name since their participation in the 2003 Depayin Massacre, which brutally ambushed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s motorcade, and the September 2007 crackdown on demonstrators.

The military junta is allowing the USDA to become involved in rural social development projects ahead of the elections scheduled for 2010. Such projects include road building roads, plant propagation, provision of educational and medical facilities upcountry, performing relief work in the Irrawaddy delta after Cyclone Nargis, as well as providing micro credit.

Though the USDA is not the official ruling party in Burma, USDA leaders often meet with foreign delegations on a party to party basis.

In early June, Htay Oo, general secretary of the USDA, attended a North Korean film event in Rangoon, which marked the 45th anniversary of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s seat on the central committee of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea.

Though the junta has yet to announce the election date officially, the leaders of the USDA have been campaigning across the country.

The junta’s mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday that an executive leader of the USDA, Burmese Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, met more than 23,000 people in Saw Township, Magway Division in central Burma last week—observers believe this kind of trip is a part of the election campaign.

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