RANGOON — A Naypyidaw court this week brought charges against two opposition party members accused of trespassing while carrying out a door-to-door voter list verification campaign in the capital.
Tin Htay, 53, and Sein Maung Myint, 63, members of the Naypyidaw chapter of the National League for Democracy (NLD), were notified by police late last month that they had been reported as trespassers while visiting a residence in the capital’s Zabuthiri Township.
The pair was indicted by the township court on Wednesday under Penal Code Article 448, which carries potential penalties of a fine and a maximum one-year prison sentence for trespassing on residential property.
They were initially notified that they would be charged under a different article, 477, punishable with three months in prison.
Tin Htay told The Irrawaddy that police took depositions from the two men on June 23, but excluded a witness present at the time of the alleged offense.
Tin Htay and Sein Maung Myint visited the home Thet Htun Oo in Shwe Kyar Pin ward in mid-June as part of a door-to-door voter list verification drive carried out by the NLD, which has complained of irregularities and inaccuracies in the roster.
The defendants said they entered the house with the permission of its occupants, and had no trouble while they were there. A few days later they warned by township police that they may face charges.
“The father of Thet Htun Oo allowed us to enter the house. We gave that statement to the police but he has been excluded [from the deposition and hearing]. Instead, the ward administrator and his brother are listed as witnesses, but they weren’t present when we made the visit,” Tin Htay said, maintaining their innocence.
“We were just doing the right, as our central committee instructed, and as [Union Election Commission] Chairman Tin Aye requested—for parties to work together to make the voter lists accurate,” he said.
The township’s NLD Chairman. U Swe, said nearly 50 percent of the area’s voter lists contained errors. Additionally, some 20 percent of the township’s eligible voters were not included in the list at all, he said.
“We will defend against [these charges],” U Swe said. “Voter lists throughout the country have errors, and if we don’t correct it we will not have free and fair elections. I think this is a warning not to continue the verification, but we will keep at it.”
Tin Htay said the two men will return to court on July 22 for trial. No other NLD members have faced legal action or other repercussions for their participation in the campaign, he said.