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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Violence Against NLD Supporters Mars Delta Township Campaigning

Irrawaddy Division’s Myaungmya Township sees some of the earliest indications of election-related violence, with two assaults in two days on National League for Democracy supporters.


RANGOON — The seemingly unremarkable township of Myaungmya in Irrawaddy Division has played host to some of the earliest indications of election-related violence to date, with two attacks in as many days on supporters of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) last month.

On Sept. 22, a party member from Kwin Mauk Gyi village was repeatedly punched in an assault by the leader of the village election subcommission, according to Thant Zaw Win, an NLD candidate for the Irrawaddy Division regional parliament.

One of the local NLD chapter’s campaign organizers, Win Myint, told The Irrawaddy that the party sent a formal complaint letter to the relevant authorities on Friday morning.

“Now things are going smoothly. Today, we demanded that the district subcommission take legal action on that,” Win Myint said, adding that he was unaware of what had provoked the election official, Tin Tun, to attack the NLD member.

The mobile phones of both the alleged offender and victim, Myo Lwin, were out of the service area when The Irrawaddy attempted to contact them on Friday.

Myaungmya District subcommission head Maung Maung Sein told The Irrawaddy that the local polling body had received a copy of the official complaint from the NLD concerning the incident, confirming that it involved an alleged assault by an election subcommissioner on the NLD member.

The attack was the first of at least two on supporters of Burma’s largest opposition party in Myaungmya Township.

On Wednesday, The Irrawaddy reported that a man returning home from a Sept. 23 rally for Soe Moe Thu, the NLD’s Lower House candidate for the Myaungmya Township constituency, was knocked unconscious and later found in a graveyard.

An officer at the Myaungmya Township Police Station told The Irrawaddy on Friday that three men were detained in connection with the incident and were charged under Article 325 of the Penal Code, which covers “voluntarily causing grievous hurt.”

Soe Moe Thu told The Irrawaddy that the three men were released on bail put up by an unspecified campaign team leader for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The NLD has requested a meeting with the Union Election Commission (UEC) after more than three weeks of campaigning in which it claims to have faced several problems on the campaign trail that qualify as violations of election law. Party spokesman Nyan Tun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the UEC had agreed to meet over the issue, though no date had been set.

The general election slated for Nov. 8 is tipped to be Burma’s freest and fairest vote in decades, but as the first month of campaigning comes to a close next week, it is clear that the lead-up to the historic poll will not be without its challenges.

NLD campaigning elsewhere has been subject to a variety of disruptions and constraints, including an edict from one incumbent candidate warning the party off campaigning in parts of Kachin State, vandalism of party billboards and administrative prohibitions blocking the party’s access to venues.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the party can patch over its differences with the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, a powerful Buddhist nationalist group better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha.

The feud stems from the NLD’s assertion that Ma Ba Tha has in recent weeks launched a campaign against the party, urging voters not to support the party in the coming poll on the grounds that the election of its members would imperil the majority ethnic Burman Buddhist character of the nation.

The general election’s official campaign period began on Sept. 8 and will conclude on Nov. 6.