RANGOON — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged voters living on the Coco Islands not to be intimidated by threats reported by her party’s candidate and locals ahead of Sunday’s landmark election.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman spoke with party members and voters via phone on Thursday afternoon, two days after she made repeated unsuccessful attempts to call the remote constituency. Suu Kyi asked those listening in on the call to collect evidence of any threats or misconduct to allow the party to file complaints with the Union Election Commission after the poll.
“Tell everyone. What they have to be scared of? If they are scared this time, they will be scared for a long time. Be brave. To see change, people on Coco Islands should not be scared,” she said.
Earlier in the conversation, Win Min, the NLD’s Lower House candidate for the islands, asked Suu Kyi to broker the arrival of outside observers on the islands, which is largely populated by military personnel, their families and civil servants.
“We also request you to invite observers to the islands,” he said. “We would like the observers to come here and observe the election here. It has few eligible voters but it is a seat that will mostly not have a free and fair election.”
Win Min said that by Thursday, the penultimate day of the campaign period, he had only been able to reach around 400 of the 1,500 eligible voters on the islands. He had been prevented from campaigning in a number of off-limits areas, and some local residents had been threatened for meeting with NLD representatives and instructed not to vote for the party.
Coco Islands resident Htar Htar Nwe told The Irrawaddy that her husband and son, who both work as civil servants, were threatened when she applied to work as and NLD scrutineer at a local polling station.
“I will not act as a party agent since my husband and son were threatened by their department’s head, though I want to. But I will cast my vote without fear on election day,” she said.
Win Min said that he believed the NLD would win 70 percent of the vote on the islands if the ballot was free, but Sunday’s poll was unlikely to reflect the wishes of most of the islands’ residents.
“Even if I lose in the coming election, I would like to run for the Coco Islands in next election,” he said. “Even it is still unfair competition like it is now.”