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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Chin State Candidates Say Floods Will Hamper Campaign

Candidates in Chin State say they will be unable to campaign in remote areas after floods in the region, leaving the ruling party with an election advantage.


RANGOON—With less than a week before the formal campaign period begins, candidates in Chin State say they will be unable to campaign in remote areas after floods and landslides in the region.

Chin State has suffered severe economic losses in the wake of the August floods disaster, with the destruction of 2,000 buildings and damage to a number of roads further complicating recovery.

Cheery Zahau, an ethnic Chin human rights activist who is contesting a Lower House seat for the Chin Progressive Party (CPP), said that candidates will face long delays and will be unable to reach some areas.

“The campaign period will start on Tuesday,” she said.“I need to go to 184 villages in 60 days since I’m contesting a Lower House seat, but it will be difficult to travel to all of these places.”

NgaiSak, chairman of the Chin League for Democracy (CLD), said that there was currently no indication that road repairs would be finished before the end of September, and some roads are so damaged as to make even foot travel impossible.

“At the moment it is very difficult to travel from one village to another, and communication lines are down in some places as well,” he said. “Smaller and newly founded parties like us need to focus more during the campaign period but because of transportation difficulties, there will be many villages that we won’t be able to reach.”

The Upper House candidate added that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) would enjoy an advantage in the coming weeks, as it had already recruited and paid for campaign coordinators in villages across the state to campaign on behalf of the party.

NgaiSak said that during a meeting between political parties and the Union Election Commission on Tuesday, the CPP unsuccessfully requested that the commission postpone elections in the state.

“Though we will face many difficulties for preparation, we also don’t want a postponement because it will extend the current government’s term,” he said. “We believe that people have enough awareness to cast a vote for change.”

The Chin State government said in August that a number of townships had been severely affected by floods and landslides in the last month, including the state capital Hakha. On Friday, over 180 houses were destroyed in a mudslide in Tonzang Township, leaving at least 20 people unaccounted for.