Five senior members of the People Democracy Party (PDP), a small opposition group, were arrested last month after the party publicly accused Kachin state chief minister Lajawn Ngan Seng (also spelled La John Ngan Hsai) of corruption. The arrested party leaders were reportedly charged with incitement and defamation after party literature was printed accusing Ngan Hsai and his deputies of soliciting bribes from Myitkyina area motorbike salesman and organizers of the annual Manau festival.
In in an article published last Friday by the Irrawaddy magazine PDP Secretary Aung Myint revealed that the PDP had written to NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi requesting assistance in freeing the detained party members. According to Aung Myint on October 24th PDP Chairman Dr. Than Htike Oo, Vice-Chairman Hein Htet Aung, Executive Committee member Win Naing and two other party members were detained. One of the five, Nan Kham Htwe was subsequently released due to health reasons.
The arrests of the chief minister's political opponents come amid rising tensions in Kachin state, where fighting occurs nearly every day between the Kachin Independence Organization and Burma's military.
Ngan Hsai, a Kachin businessman with connections to Burma's military remains very unpopular in his home state where he serves as the most senior Kachin representative of the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). He is seen by many observers of Kachin affairs to be a puppet of the previous military's regimes Minister for Communications, Post and Telegraph Thein Zaw. Relatively unknown before running in the 2010 election, Ngan Hsai is a Buddhist unlike most Kachin who are predominately Christian and has no discernible base of support amongst the Kachin population.
The PDP was established in 2010 and ran candidates in several districts in northern Burma during that year's national election but failed to win any seats. The election was widely criticized for being run in a non-transparent manner that favored the military backed USDP.